It is imperative Services update robust Multi-Domain sustainment Logistics enterprise that can provide support over great distances in austere environments, both inter- and intra-theater, to prevail in conflict.
The strategic security environment described in the 2018 National Defense Strategy necessitates that DoD and the military services prepare for operations on a complex and multi-domain battlefield where business-as-usual Logistics can not be successful.
The Services response to this Logistics challenge is embedded in a concept called Multi-Domain Operations MDO. MDO calls for the rapid and continuous integration of all domains of warfare to ensure we can deter threats and prevail in battle.
Doing so first requires neutralizing adversaries’ anti-access/area denial A2/AD capabilities as forces deploy and then employ combat power Logistics into hostile environments. Threat A2/AD capabilities impede not only the mobility but also the sustainment of forces.
By making sure Logistics can keep up with multi-domain operations, the adversary will not just be forced to contend with multiple competing dilemmas, but be brought to the negotiating table under optimal conditions
Pentagon vision of how it will fight in the future rests on the notion of the “dilemma.” Multi-domain operations as a concept proposes that the joint force can achieve competitive advantage over a near-peer adversary by presenting multiple complementary threats that each require a response, thereby exposing adversary vulnerabilities to other threats. It is the artful combination of these multiple dilemmas, rather than a clear overmatch in terms of any particular capability, that produces the desired advantage.
An exercise offered a glimpse of what the multi-domain operations concept will look in practice like when applied on the battlefield. The 1st Infantry Division, for example, achieved some success in its ability to rapidly erode enemy defenses through the integrated use of fires, aviation attacks, tactical deceptions, vertical envelopment by light infantry, and armored penetration.
These complementary tools, when applied rapidly and in close synchronization, exchanged mass for tempo and forced the enemy into multiple dilemmas across multiple domains. What follows is an explanation of how the division accomplished this, what we learned, and how we got better along the way.
Managing Risk in the Digital Battlespace
In our initial command post exercise, the division commander challenged us to reframe how we defined risk to the force. Received experience from previous Warfighter exercises suggested that the most dangerous of all courses of action in the face of this peer enemy would be to do nothing, or worse, to halt and await favorable conditions to be set while our very limited armor capability sat within range of the enemy’s long-range artillery.
In this fight, audacity—when properly seasoned with a prudent understanding of the risk—is a critical combat multiplier. Must decide up front “how we would enter the digital battlespace”; how we would identify its forward edge; and once in it, how we would proceed audaciously with the simultaneous commitment of all forms of contact that the division could generate. Once in the digital battlespace we realized that the most dangerous and risky thing we could do was to stop attacking.
This challenge is further complicated by the presence of underground facilities throughout the exercise’s area of operations. How troops effectively employed underground facilities to deny coalition forces what has traditionally been our greatest asymmetric advantage—the ability to shape and attrite OPFOR prior to the advance of the main body. We observed a very carefully calibrated set of triggers for the OPFOR decision to uncover its artillery from underground facilities and a period of extreme vulnerability as the OPFOR exited those facilities—often in single file.
Our goal then was to ensure we were prepared to exploit this window of opportunity either with the timely application of attack aviation or through the insertion of light infantry forces who would then move, often many kilometers, to block the exits to these underground facilities at the opportune moment.
Operational frameworks are difficult to conceptualize, yet they are fundamental to a logical plan. Divisions utilized operational frameworks as a digital tool to clearly visualize and describe the application of combat power in time, space, and purpose. It provided a logical architecture and foundation on which the subsequent detail, resource, permission, responsibility, effort, operation, concept, and task were built. Through a clearly articulated concept of operations, the division ensured that actions that it and the brigade combat teams executed were in pursuit of the commander’s end state.
During planning, dividing an area of operations into parts categorized as deep, close, support, and consolidation only explains the plan by time and space. Meanwhile, assigning operations as either decisive, shaping, or sustaining and units as the main or supporting efforts explains actions by purpose. Combining all three frameworks achieved what the division and brigade commanders needed: to explain actions and responsibilities in time, space, and purpose.
Presenting Multiple Dilemmas
In this particular Warfighter exercise, the division observed that the terrain limited options for ground maneuver. A single penetration, though conservative and often effective, would not achieve the commander’s intent. The penetration presents the enemy with one problem—a problem that other units have presented repeatedly. Dilemmas are not the same as problems. A problem is a situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful that must be dealt with and overcome.
A dilemma, by contrast, is a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially equally undesirable ones. To present the enemy with multiple dilemmas across multiple domains and in multiple locations, the division combined penetrations with audacious turning movements and tactical deceptions, complemented and reinforced with nonlethal effects.
The turning movements were achieved by conducting air assaults across the coordinated fire line and up to the fire support coordination line. To avoid enemy air defenses, these air assaults were often offset by several kilometers and at least a major terrain feature away from their intended target.
The targets were often key points of overwatch for particular underground facilities suspected of housing long-range artillery, or points of domination that could cover major avenues of approach. Timely execution of these air assaults forced the enemy to divert resources and attention from the advance of our armored formations along heavily defended avenues of approach and thereby dislocated the main enemy defenses.
In the cases where we were successful, the division forced the enemy to react to our operations and enter the fight on our terms. More importantly, we were able to achieve tempo not just through the sustained geographical advance of the forward line of troops, but by persistently presenting complementary dilemmas to the enemy in unexpected ways to diminish adversaries decision space and disrupted their understanding of its own plan. By the time the enemy observed and oriented on one dilemma, the division sought to present another, thereby causing the enemy to not render a decision on the initial dilemma.
Sustaining both momentum and tempo against a capable enemy required the division to reframe how we achieved synchronization during sustained and dynamic combat operations. Too often our decision-making process in combat operations mirrors the activity of a football team on the gridiron. In the midst of a long offensive drive, we seek to impose periods of planning i.e., the huddle, an approach march, a decisive operation where synchronization is optimized, and a culminating point that leads into a period of disengagement and another planning session.
This “battle period” model, thankfully obsolete at our brigade training centers with the advent of open phasing, is equally inappropriate in a Warfighter exercise. Instead, we needed to think like a rugby team, where synchronization occurred rapidly and unexpectedly with fleeting moments of opportunity quickly identified and exploited by individual players who then become the supported effort as the team synchronizes around them. This required a different and more dynamic approach with near/long term tactical planning and targeting cycles all occurring constantly as conditions changed on the ground.
Simultaneity and Momentum
Conducted simultaneously, the penetrations, turning movements, and tactical deceptions enabled the division to achieve a degree of irreversible momentum against the enemy. The armor penetrations kept the enemy’s sensors engaged. The turning movements avoided the enemy’s principle defensive positions and seized objectives behind the enemy’s current positions causing the enemy to both dislocate from its positions and to divert forces to meet the threat. The tactical deceptions kept the enemy fixed on sizable threats, which influenced the enemy’s decision to prematurely unmask forces in sanctuary inside its underground facilities.
Additionally, the combat aviation brigade was employed as an independent maneuver organization focused on destroying enemy high-payoff targets—in particular long-range artillery. Synchronizing all of these actions in time, space, and purpose became a tremendously complex task and the primary focus for the division main command post.
We managed this effort with a centralized division synchronization matrix that was incredibly detailed, included all subordinate, adjacent, and functional unit actions, remained prominently posted on our current operations floor, and printed in placemat form at every major battle-rhythm event, especially the targeting working group and the target decision board. The synchronization matrix allowed us to forecast time out and visualize the timing of the dilemmas that would be presented to the enemy as we fought through the typical frictions of a large and complex operation.
Targeting and the Plan
The division ensured that the targeting process was nested within the plan and that the plan was flexible enough to adapt with the targeting process. From the beginning, targeting was aligned with the commander’s intent—to “cause the rapid erosion of the enemy’s defenses and will to fight.”
The division’s targeting imposed the commander’s will, in the form of physical, temporal, and cognitive effects, on the enemy. The division simultaneously employed multiple defeat mechanisms to accomplish its mission, while at the same time removing the ability for the enemy to present dilemmas to the division. The targeting process integrated all warfighting functions, but specifically integrated the enemy plan, the maneuver plan, tactical deceptions, lethal effects, and non lethal effects to exhaust the enemy’s ability to make sound and timely decisions.
Targeting was assessment-driven, and therefore required specificity in information collection and analysis to evaluate the effects. In the deep fight, this process disintegrated the enemy—disrupting and degrading the enemy’s ability to conduct operations while leading to the collapse of enemy capabilities and will to fight. In the close fight, this process prevented the enemy from massing combat power in the battlespace.
Our experience in this Warfighter exercise confirmed practically the conceptually central idea of multi-domain operations—that competitive advantage emerges from the skillful integration of complementary capabilities, sequenced in time, space, and purpose to create multiple dilemmas for an adversary.
When we achieved this effect, we found success. When we failed, the very capable enemy we faced quickly overwhelmed and defeated our exposed forces. Presenting multiple dilemmas required the diivison staff to redefine its understanding of prudent risk and to develop a natural bias toward action rather than inaction.
Once in the “digital battlespace,” the most dangerous and risky course of action was the failure to act. This required a very clear intent from the commander and a staff that could coordinate, integrate, and anticipate actions in time, space, and purpose, with higher, adjacent, and subordinate unit headquarters.
Simultaneity across all domains and irreversible momentum can only be achieved through a well-trained and experienced team of teams. “Presenting multiple dilemmas to the enemy” is more than just a catchphrase. Achieiving it requires clear intent, a culture of empowerment, a capable staff, and a level of risk tolerance that many of us may be uncomfortable with. But, when properly and artfully executed it can yield a signficant competitive advantage on the modern battlefield that ultimately saves lives and produces decisive results.
New concept of warfighting has evolved into multi-domain operations and rapidly spread in conversation to the joint force. To take the concept beyond white papers and white boards, the Army has built a Multi-Domain Task Force, which recently saw its first field experiments.
The concept looks at how services will penetrate the more sophisticated defenses of adversaries and travel along the continuum of conflict while maintaining superiority and advantage. It means using longer range fires, better missile defense, an impenetrable network and highly refined small unit capabilities. And it means all of that in more domains at once than any commander has ever had to consider.
At some point, the task forces will simply dissolve into the way the Army does business. “You’ll have these capabilities at echelon throughout the entire theater.
In the near future even company commanders will become used to thinking in all domains and using data, high-performance computing, sensors, nodes, networks and firing platforms across all of the services.
You can’t effectively prosecute a campaign using MDO if it’s not joint. Different domains can be applied to create the window of opportunity. Imagine effectively securing airspace and waterways by long-range precision fires or air missile defense. It’s turning everything on its head.
It’s fair to say in the future MDO is at the tactical level. At the company and battalion level, it’s still about combined arms at the lowest tactical level. MDO just lets the maneuver force continue to do combined arms maneuver.
Now what will be distinct is reliance on the tactical level to think, assess and employ all domains when necessary.. So the thinking will be for tactical-level commanders to see opportunities for all domains to be integrated, or leverage the benefits of other domains in their tactical space. But in the end a battalion will maneuver like a battalion.
That makes operations more dispersed and leaders must call on support from a much wider area. Operational and theater-level commanders must compete daily to enable any kind of penetration or in order to enable conflict.
“What soldiers will see is after forces get out into theater and then geographic combatant commanders recognize the virtues that they bring to their capacity and as we learn and as we go through service wide analysis what you’ll see is that we’ll start building out those echelons we’ve talked about.
“You’ll need to have a theater fires command, you’ll need to have an operational fires command. You’ll need to have network capacity at echelon. You’ll need to have access to space assets at echelon.”
1. Feeds war fighter information necessary to orient structure of battlespace
2. Perspective gives ability to see and understand the competition
3. Provides insight into battlespace from others’ perspectives
4. Integrate information where and when it is needed,
5. Aggressive collection and sourcing of information to provide behavior context
6. Indivisible effects depend on ISR and integration.
7. ISR is domain-neutral ISR focused on capabilities and effects, not platforms
8. ISR is operations—not solely support to operations
9. Interoperability required for interservice effectiveness
10. Provides ability for quick maneuver or action between domains