US ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE
Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC)
Intermediate Level Education – Common Core (ILE-CC)
C170 Argumentative Essay
Does the US Army Futures Command enable the Army to defeat its adversaries?
CH (MAJ) Justin DuBose
US Army Reserves
16 June 2022
Since the earliest recorded accounts of warfare, the battlefield and battlefield weaponry has consistently and constantly undergone change. While Roman Soldiers fought with spears and shields, by the 16th century guns were being used in battles fought on the European continent. Consider the changes in just the most recent century of warfare: Soldiers in World War I were still utilizing brutal and labor-intensive trench warfare tactics, while in the battle landscape of the past 20 years unmanned aerial vehicles roam the skies and drop precision bombs from invisible perches above the clouds. In this rapidly changing landscape, how can the United States Army continue to outpace its military competition around the globe? One suggested answer came in the formation of the US Army Futures Command located in Austin, TX. Becoming fully operational in 2019, the Army Futures Command was created to “accelerate modernization and stay ahead of near peer adversaries Russia and China” in the realm of defense capability and combat weaponry. While the goal of the US Army Futures Command is one worth pursuing, and of vital interest to the nation and its citizens, the real question to be considered is: Does the US Army Futures Command enable the Army to defeat its adversaries? This paper will consider this important question and offer evidence as to why the author believes that the Futures Command, as it currently exists, does not enable the Army to defeat its adversaries.
One must properly and concretely define terms to answer this question. What is meant by “defeat”? If defeat is to be understood in the classical sense where one enemy is soundly beaten by another to the point of unconditional surrender and full subjugation of their collective will, then it is presently impossible to conclude that the Futures Command enables the Army to accomplish that. Consider, for example, that the stated mission of the Futures Command is to “stay ahead of near peer adversaries”. Whatever “staying ahead” is, it does not have the same tone, confidence, and finality as “defeat”. If the Futures Command enables the Army to stay ahead of its adversaries, then it does not necessarily enable the Army to defeat them. Many arguments from history could be made to show that one force who “stayed ahead” of their adversaries were still defeated by them. Consider as evidence our own American Revolution. It could be argued that the British military was far ahead of the Continental Army in most every area (experience, numbers, funding, education, weapons, etc.) and yet was clearly defeated by them.
The term “adversary” must be clearly defined and understood as well. If the Futures Command is aiming to include only Russia and China in their scope (thereby excluding all other potential adversaries) perhaps that is measurable and attainable. However, modern battlefields are increasingly complex and distinctions between state and non-state, or public and private actors, only continue to blur. Authors David Barno and Nora Bensahel summarized this by saying of current and future warfare that “the barrier between Soldiers and civilians would fundamentally be erased, because the battle would be everywhere”. Barno and Bensahel candidly noted that the very concept of a battlefield or battlespace is outdated and without application in modern warfare because “society itself” is now the battlefield. With these conditions, defining the term “adversaries” can be a serious challenge. However, limiting adversaries to two major state actors can blind both military and civic authorities to the realities of combat, create a false sense of security, skew even the words we use to define our mission (like victory and defeat), and be a recipe for disaster.
The Army’s inherently slow speed of mass transition and questionable track record of new product development and rollout serve as additional evidence that the Futures Command cannot, on its own, enable the Army to defeat its adversaries. On the Futures Command website, their own references to their current and developing products read like a description of weapons used last century: missiles, artillery, armored multi-purpose vehicle, and tactical aircraft systems. It is not simply the nomenclature that presents an issue, but rather the underlying mindset and assumptions attached to those terms: a culture and mindset of war being fought between competing armies with weapons of warfare on a battlefield. However, the battlefields of the future – fought in society itself – relegate such weapons to museum relics and monuments of very expensive great ideas. General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff authored what has come to be known as “Gerasimov’s Doctrine”. This doctrine is a revealing glimpse into the mind of Russia’s top military official and highlights how Russia thinks and conducts operations. In this doctrine, General Gerasimov noted that “war is now conducted by a roughly 4:1 ratio of non-military and military resources”. Thus, if a Command (such as the Futures Command) is to be adequately prepared to compete, much less defeat, their adversaries, they must consider resources beyond missiles and artillery. Furthermore, according to Gerasimov, they must consider those resources as significantly more valuable than military resources and invest aggressively in them and in subject matter experts who know how to operate them.
What do these non-military resources look like? Information itself has long been identified as a key sector of warfare. Accordingly, more of our adversaries see the “information war” as more urgent and effective than vehicles and aircraft. It comes as no surprise that in our current information age, one of the key observable trends throughout the globe is increased speed of human interaction and rapid socio-economic changes. This increased speed of human interaction has been brought on by technology, and, as that technology becomes more affordable and accessible, it is increasingly weaponized to influence the outcome of the information war. One major consequence of this change is that “nearly anyone with a smartphone or laptop can join that fight”. This has led to capable, sophisticated, and proactive cyber forces present across the globe in the form of state and non-state actors alike. How do these cyber forces seek to win the information war? Certainly not by expending precious resources on artillery and aircraft! No, their approach is more subtle and subversive. They are “setting up slush funds to influence opponents’ legislatures and governments, and buying controlling shares of stocks to convert an adversary’s major television and newspaper outlets into tools of media warfare”. Consequently, “The US Armed Forces – which remain the strongest and best resourced in the world – provide virtually no defense against the cyber vulnerabilities that affect every American business and household”.
The original question considered whether the US Army Futures Command could enable the US Army to defeat its adversaries. The opinion of the author is that the Futures Command, with its militaristic structure, scope, capability, and outlook, cannot fully or ably address the realities of modern or future warfare. Thus, it cannot enable the US Army to defeat its adversaries. In order for that answer to shift from the negative to the affirmative, the aforementioned realities must be addressed. Those in command must constantly consider and answer questions like: What is defeat? Who are our adversaries? What is the battlespace where victory will be won? How can we invest more aggressively and heavily in non-militaristic assets than in militaristic assets? How can we shape a culture whose mindset is reflected in the vocabulary and nomenclatures used across the command? With the modern complexities associated with warfare, the answer cannot be found in “staying ahead” of the curve. If victory is staying ahead, then defeat is not far ahead.
Barno, David & Bensahel, Nora. “A New Generation of Unrestricted Warfare.” Accessed June 16, 2022, https://www.warontherocks.com/2016/04/a-new-generation-of-unrestricted-warfare
Bartles, Charles K. “Getting Gerasimov Right.” Military Review January-February (2016): 30-37.
Judson, Jen. “Army Futures Command is ready for prime time.” Accessed June 16, 2022, http://defensenews.com/land/2019/07/17/army-futures-command-is-ready-for-prime-time/
Kersey, Ian. “Check out the TRADOC G-2’s new ‘The 2+3 Threat’ Video!” Accessed June 16, 2022, https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/mad-scientist/b/weblog/posts/check-out-the-tradoc-g-2-s-new-the-2-3-threat-video
Kersey, Ian. “Check out U.S. Army Future Command’s Future Operational Environment (FOE) Video!” Accessed June 16, 2022, https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/mad-scientist/b/weblog/posts/check-out-the-u-s-army-future-command-s-future-operational-environment-foe-video
US Army Futures Command. “2021 Year in Review”. Accessed June 16, 2022, http://armyfuturescommand.com/year-in-review
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