McMaster outlines innovation, potential risks
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When it comes to the challenge of finding ways to innovate the Army to win in a complex world, Army leaders must be in tune with the risks and fallacies that could lead to undermining their own efforts.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, deputy commander, futures/director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command, addressed attendees of the 2015 AUSA Global Force Symposium on "Army Innovation Under Force 2025 and Beyond" March 31.

"We define innovation in the Army Operating Concept as really our ability to turn ideas into valued outcomes," McMaster said. "And then also to be able to do that in a way that we stay ahead of determined, and increasingly capable enemies."

The differential advantage the Army has over the enemy comes from "our ability to combine skilled Soldiers and well-trained cohesive teams with technology," he said, which "presents our enemies will multiple dilemmas." But that doesn't mean that as the Army looks to the future that there aren't challenges and risks to be aware of when it comes to innovation and winning future fights.

"The biggest risk that we have today is the development of concepts that are inconsistent with the enduring nature of war," McMaster said. "What we see today is really an effort to simplify this complex problem of future war and to essentially make it a targeting exercise. This is not a new phenomenon, we call it the 'vampire fallacy.' You can't kill it, it comes back every 10 years. The idea is that the next technology we develop is going to make this next war fundamentally different from all those that have gone before it. We'll be able to solve that problem through exclusively standoff capabilities, and precision targeting and precision strike in particular."

If the Army chooses to go that route, it could end up building vulnerabilities, leading to a narrowing of capabilities, and improper preparation for what the enemy might one day bring to the table. Relying on proxies to do the fighting for the Army is also a potential risk, according to McMaster.

"The first real risk to innovation are theories and ideas about future wars that cut against war's political nature, war's human natures, war's uncertainty and war as a contest of wills," he said. "We can mitigate that risk by communicating effectively."

Another risk to innovation efforts is to under source those efforts.

"It's great for us to say how thoughtful we're going to be, how clever we're going to be, but a very, very clever force that doesn't have the tools it needs or the capacity it needs to operate at a sufficient scale and for ample duration to accomplish the mission is going to be a risk," McMaster said.

The framework being used as leaders think about future armed conflict and war-fighting challenges can be found in key factors: threats, missions, technology, history and lessons learned, according to McMaster.

"Our efforts are aimed at two objectives, innovate overall, but to innovate with a higher quality and to innovate faster," he said. "And to do that using the framework of the war-fighting challenges, our learning events and our campaign of learning under Force 2025 maneuvers, while having an eye on implementation."