JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD -- The battlefield of tomorrow may not be found on a two-dimensional map. It probably will feature more than just large armies fighting for supremacy. It will most likely include new styles of units which are still beginning to take shape.
At I Corps' Information Warfare Symposium (IWS) on February 26-27, the changing dynamics of multi-domain operations (MDO) and "constant competition" were discussed, with perhaps one unanimous opinion about the battlefield of the future: it's already here.
"Multi-domain operations is really part of every high end scenario we can consider," said Col. Olin Strader, I Corps Assistant Chief of Staff. "And not only high-end conflict, it could also be used in lower-end conflict. We're building capabilities now so we can address threats we face from near-peer competitors."
As the only Army corps aligned with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), I Corps is focused on near peer and large scale ground combat. While the latter may sound like a relic of the past, it will be fought with the emerging tools of today: space, information and psychological operations combined with intelligence, cyber defense and the latest digital communication technologies.
These capabilities comprise the Information Warfare section at I Corps, and at the IWS its staff members were able to share best practices with similar staffs from across the joint forces, as well as visitors from the British Army.
"IO is integral to the success of U.S. forces on the future battlefield," said Col. Jeff Powell, I Corps Chief of Future Operations. "The most important aspect of this symposium is bringing allies in and having them provide us their thoughts and feedback on IO and to potentially open the aperture for us in terms of how to better utilize it in our own maneuver."
I Corps has been at the forefront of the Army's MDO development, not only in planning and exercising, but in operationalizing it in the form of standing up the force's first Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space unit, also known as I2CEWS, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The I2CEWS activation, part of USINDOPACOM's Multi Domain Task Force, was frequently used as an example during the IWS of how warfare is changing: agile units with specialized capabilities that can affect conflict across several domains.
"Increasing capabilities will change how a unit fights," said Lt. Col. Derek Bothern, I2CEWS commander. "Previously all those capabilities were held at Cyber Command or Strategic Command, and you had to request those capabilities. Now those capabilities are inside the organization and able to meet the commander's intent and requirements for the mission."
While I2CEWS will provide a jolt of capabilities to the battlefield, I Corps' existing force structure has shown at large scale exercises across the Pacific that it can adapt to meet tomorrow's conflicts.
"I Corps has been on the leading edge of this," said Strader. "We've integrated (MDO) into exercises, and that has given us the expertise that we have resident in our formation today."
Continuing to integrate MDO capabilities was one of the chief goals of the IWS, as Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, I Corps commander, stressed in his comments opening the event.
"We must learn from your organizations to help us get better and continue to improve every day," Volesky said.
Volesky personally invited the IWS' keynote speaker: Maj. Gen. T.R. Copinger-Symes, general officer commanding, Force Troops Command, British Army.
Copinger-Symes spoke on how the changing nature of our world is also affecting warfare, and our defense planning needs to change with it.
"It's not called the information age by mistake," said Copinger-Symes. "With the advent of digital communication, it's disrupting every facet of life, from entertainment to education to commerce, and it only makes sense that it disrupts warfare as well."
With a diverse set of panels that touched on several different facets of IO, the symposium also included question and answer sessions that helped connect subject matter experts from across the military.
"It's given us an opportunity to bring together a lot of expertise, from the Department of the Army but the Department of Defense as well," said Brig. Gen. Richard Angle, deputy commanding general (operations), U.S. Army Cyber Command. "We don't have all the answers yet, but by bringing together a collection of smart folks like this, we're well on our way to get those answers."