As director of Army Futures and Concepts Center (FCC), Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley is responsible for providing the intellectual foundation to design, develop, and field a more lethal future Army. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Wesley previously served as commanding general of U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. Prior to that, he served as director for Afghanistan-Pakistan policy on National Security Council as well as director for future plans for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, in Afghanistan. Here are his thoughts on the evolution of the multi-domain operations (MDO) concept and the role of Army sustainers.Can you discuss the importance of the strategic support area (SSA)?As a nation, we are isolationists by nature. We don’t believe we’re a warfighting people and therefore view war as an anomaly. Why is that important? In a very digital way, our norm is peace not war. Our Constitution and our laws, policies, and behavior see it as a discrete issue—you’re either at war or not. That sets a very high threshold and leads to a mobilization mindset: If we are pushed beyond our threshold, we’ll mobilize for war.There’s an era where that might be acceptable. Think about the massive mobilizations of World War I and World War II, which ultimately moved the campaigns to a positive outcome. In our lifetime we’ve dominated the sea lanes and airspace so well, we can choose the timing of war, stack metal in a certain theater at an aerial port of debarkation, and at our discretion conduct an operation.In the future, we likely won’t have time to conduct massive mobilizations to achieve our outcomes. Many argue he who wins the first battle wins the war because the cost of protracted conflict with two nuclear-capable forces becomes untenable. That means you already have to be there to some degree to effectively compete and deter war. If deterrence or the ability to defeat that first battle fails, then mobilization will be fundamental and significant.Here’s where the SSA comes into play. If we are challenged in all domains, those challenges extend well beyond the theater of war into the SSA and Installation Management Command’s (IMCOM) area of operations. With Army Materiel Command (AMC) being responsible for the SSA, this becomes the theater in which it must be ready for attacks and is why the realignment of IMCOM under AMC was so important.Hardening our systems and communications capacity across the SSA will be critical so we’re less vulnerable to cyberattacks. Smart capabilities in each of our installations—smart homes, buildings, even whole cities—are being developed by the Army G-9 (Installations), IMCOM, and our industry partners. All of these are important steps to rapidly synthesize what we have and move it forward.How has MDO evolved during your tenure at FCC, particularly in defining the future of sustainment?We do not look at MDO absent the understanding of sustainment. One of the more critical aspects of its evolution is the increased rigor with which MDO has been grounded. As we’ve exercised and war-gamed over and over in the last two years, we’re finding MDO is increasingly true based on experimentation. In fact, the sustainment community’s progress in the next 10 or 15 years is a fundamental anchor to our success in enabling MDO, which not enough people realize.When you look back in history, the sustainment community has largely built the logistics system around a pipeline; in the future, organizations and formations will require a rucksack. For centuries, culture has traditionally focused on building a main supply route (MSR)—a pipeline—in order to sustain units forward. But in this era of distributed operations, increased lethality, and hyperactive battlefields, convoys are more vulnerable and threats to lines of communication greater. Formations will at times be out of contact, both physically and technically, and therefore must be able to operate independently. That means being increasingly sustainable by organic capabilities, whether it be generating energy or supplies. They’re going to have to rely on their rucksacks.When he was AMC commander, Gen. Gustave “Gus” Perna pushed for a tenfold improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of our sustainment capabilities. It’s not just because he wanted to be better; if we have independent formations or those that need organic power, we must be able to sustain them at that level.Take additive manufacturing, for example. Printing repair parts rather than shipping them reduces the requirement for trucks and MSRs. What if you leverage hybrid or fully-electric vehicle technology? You measure the number of parts on an internal combustion engine in the tens of thousands; you measure the same on an electric vehicle in the dozens. Couple that with mobile nuclear reactors that the Office of the Secretary of Defense is working, and the impact of generating organic power at the tactical level to “refuel” vehicles. Each of these enhance the rucksack and enable organic logistics closer to the point of need, ultimately reducing the burden of our dependence on the pipeline.Can you discuss the idea of convergence?There are three tenets of MDO: calibrated force posture, multi-domain formations, and convergence. Calibrated force posture is a function of four things. First, what is your forward force, be it rotational or permanent? Second, given the degree to which you do or don’t have forward presence forces, what is your expeditionary capacity to get forces there? Third, if I’m going to be integrating cyber and space, what access do you have to national-level assets and capabilities? Last, what are your authorities? Those four things are rheostats in a given theater.Multi-domain formations ensure you can get access down to the tactical level and conduct independent maneuver. This requires, in some fashion, the ability to leverage data coming from the cyber and space realms that formations don’t have now.Convergence is a new word. Doctrinaires understandably don’t like new words; they’re the antithesis of doctrine. Doctrine relies on common language and we introduce new words only when we want people to think differently.With convergence, many think it’s no different than synchronization—but there’s a reason we didn’t use “synchronization of the battlefield” or “synchronization of weapons systems.” In terms of fundamentals, convergence has two components. First, we know our adversaries are investing in ways to challenge us in all domains. If that’s true, there are only a couple ways you can create overmatch. One is to invest in all domains: cyber, electronic warfare (EW), space, maritime, ground, and air. If you put enough resources into each of those stovepipes, you’ll always overmatch your adversary. Intuitively, that is cost prohibitive. If instead you identify a decisive space where you want to apply those domains and stack them, the total is greater than the sum of the parts and thus creates overmatch. This, we’re pretty good at as an Army and as a joint force.The second aspect of convergence, however, is distinctly new and that is the ability to have a resilient system for integrating those domains rapidly and continuously to prevent a brittle kill chain. Say you have an exquisite kill chain synchronized 72 hours out, according to the authority to operate. If they’re challenging us in all domains, that kill chain could effectively be cut or bifurcated; now what are we going to do?You might be thinking, “The Army has been integrating in all domains for several years; when we took down Raqqa, we brought in cyber, EW, and space.” That’s true, but oftentimes we were only able to do it episodically based on weeks of planning efforts to line everything up and get the requisite authorities. Convergence is not episodic; we’re talking about doing it rapidly and continuously at scale across a theater of war. When you consider that each of those domains are controlled at different echelons by different services—sometimes even interagency—you realize just how much bigger and more complex this is than simply synchronizing the tools of war.We want to enable any shooter, through any sensor, through any command and control node, in near-real time. When we can do that across a theater of war, then we have convergence.How do we overcome anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) challenges to enable freedom of maneuver?It’s important to first look at why we need MDO. We’ve had a pretty powerful Army the last 30 years, borne out of AirLand Battle. So what is the reason we’re pushing a new concept?The world has changed. We’re challenged in all domains. Our adversaries employ multiple layers of standoff. The battlefield is increasingly lethal, complex, and expanded. You can’t take the old way of doing business and still expect to leverage it in a useful way.Adversaries recognize our strengths in integrating the joint force at the tactical level. They want no part of close combat with the U.S. and our allies and partners. Be it Desert Storm in 1991 or the invasion of Iraq in 2003, they’ve seen what happens when we’re allowed to get close to their formations—it usually doesn’t end well [for them]. They want no part of that, which is why China and Russia have invested in trying to keep us at bay.When we talk about A2/AD, standoff is bigger than just long-range fires. It starts with social media and cyberattacks that extend well into the continental U.S. (CONUS) and other nations. This first layer of standoff disrupts and bifurcates the unity of opposition.Then we get to the long-range fires: massed precision fires integrated with long-range sensors and drones. Their reach extends well beyond the organic artillery we’ve been used to for the last 30 years in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan.The last piece is an integrated air defense (IAD) system with extended range, which poses a threat to the U.S. Air Force. We’ve always assumed we would have air supremacy so maneuver formations could move at will with appropriate support from the air. If the Air Force can’t be sustainable in the close fight, it’s another manner in which they keep us at bay.So how does the joint force penetrate those multiple layers of standoff? Competing every day, all the time. That means countering unconventional and information warfare in theater every single day. Say there are demonstrations in Tallinn, Estonia. What is the theater commander doing that day to counter alongside our interagency partners? Are we even considering that as a target to be rendered on a daily basis?Operational preparation of the environment is also critical for penetration. If we know there’s an IAD system in a space and we’re up against long-range fires, what is the theater operational command doing each day to target the key nodes of those A2/AD capabilities? In AirLand Battle, we thought about echelons and formations: you wanted to defeat the second echelon simultaneous to the first. In MDO, it’s no longer the mass Soviet hoards we’re concerned about, but rather getting after those key points of integration. Where are the radar or headquarters systems linking those IAD capabilities together? What are the key nodes that enable their long-range sensors for precision fires? If you can identify and take those systems down, you break down their A2/AD.The last piece is being there. The National Defense Strategy (NDS) talks about “inside forces,” which enable you to pull in the rest of the formation that will be organic to outside forces. While it won’t be a huge force posture forward, the strikes made almost immediately begin to disintegrate those systems, creating space to exploit for maneuver. Our multi-domain task forces are a pilot effort putting units forward with the purpose of penetrating the A2/AD problem. They are intended to very rapidly integrate all domains in order to create overmatch in that decisive space.All of this enabling capacity is done in the competition phase. Operational headquarters have to be engaged and stimulate these nodes every single day. By doing so, first and foremost, you deter war but, secondly if deterrence fails, you can very rapidly take down those integrated systems and move into the penetration phase.Can you discuss how MDO ties into the joint force?The unique aspect of MDO is it has to be understood across the joint force. Historically, the services federated their capabilities, brought them together for a fight, and had some matrix for targeting that was actually fairly brittle. If we want to have convergence and be able to rapidly and continuously integrate all domains in near real-time, the joint force—even the interagency—has to be part of a top-down view of how war would be fought. That’s not to say you can’t refine bottom-up, but there has to be a common understanding from the top.As soon as becoming secretary of defense (SECDEF) and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, both Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley were very clear that we needed a joint concept describing how we’re going to fight in the future—one not unlike what we described in MDO. Right now, the joint force is creating a joint warfighting concept for all-domain operations and the Army has the lead role in facilitating its development. Here at FCC, and Army Futures Command under Gen. John Michael “Mike” Murray’s guidance, we are working with the joint staff to ensure that concept can support joint all-domain operations.SECDEF and Chairman also directed an annual, globally-integrated wargame intended to take these joint concepts and validate them to ensure they achieve the desired end states. It also helps scrutinize and reinforce all of the services’ investments to ensure they’re buying the right systems to enable those concepts.What is the goal for the DEFENDER exercise series from your foxhole?Underneath the Office of the Secretary of Defense-level DEFENDER series umbrella, we use our joint warfighter assessments (JWA)—run out of Joint Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas—each year to validate, learn, and confirm what we say in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.We do all sorts of exercises all the time: training events, warfighter exercises, and National Training Center (NTC) rotations. But ask yourself, “What exercises put real boots on the ground at echelons above brigade to evaluate whether what we’re saying in MDO is right, or answer the questions that remain?” The only one we do on that scale is the JWA.Like DEFENDER, JWAs similarly happen in both the European and Indo-Pacific areas of operation. Each year, we identify certain training objectives to prosecute the five key MDO problems we haveto solve at the joint level: how do you compete, penetrate, disintegrate, exploit, and return to competition? Within each, there are certain tasks we have to accomplish. For example, in the most recent JWA, we were asking how we establish a sufficient command and control network to conduct convergence. The exercise allowed us to get after that question and either validate what we’ve learned or further develop the concept.While still oriented on the European theater, DEFENDER-Europe 2022 will be a little different because we’re also going to leverage and connect the vast training space we have in CONUS. In AirLand Battle, we enhanced NTC to be able to fight deep simultaneously to our ability to fight close; our small installations around the U.S. just didn’t give us enough space to fight deep. Now, MDO requires a global scale. We’ll use live, virtual, and constructive environments to get the most out of integrated systems, which becomes a big deal.What is your advice as we transform into the Army of 2028?The Army will look different, but those at the battalion and brigade levels will still preeminently need to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. While MDO is largely an operational concept, I think lieutenants coming into the Army and tactical-level leaders need to think about two main differences.First, not only will you have to fix and maneuver, but you’ll need to see the opportunities to integrate another domain to enable you to shoot, move, and communicate. What are those entry points—what cyber node, power grid, or EW overlay—to enable your formation to fight even better? We have to train tactical leaders to think about those opportunities, and then enable their access to reach up and grab those capabilities as appropriate.Second, you will face ethical and moral leadership challenges as a result of mission command on a scale that our generation has never experienced. The hyperactivity and increased lethality of the battlefield, coupled with that physical and technical separation of formations from their higher headquarters, implies you might have to make very rapid decisions in an environment where you don’t know if you have permission. These are dilemmas we haven’t seen since the 19th century when leaders weren’t able to talk to their commander and had to operate off intent. The difference now is the speed, tempo, pace, and lethality will be exponentially higher.How does the current COVID-19 environment relate to MDO and the future of sustainment?COVID-19 is not an anomaly relative to our competition with adversaries, in fact, it accentuates it. I would argue the current scenario reinforces both the NDS and MDO because it has accelerated the behaviors of near-peers to compete and out-maneuver us left of conflict. That competition space is even more important in the COVID-19 environment.It’s been fascinating to watch the sustainment community’s agility in this environment to enable our nation’s senior leaders and bring to bear the resources we need to mitigate and solve the problem of COVID-19. When an outlier enters our culture, AMC and our Army’s logisticians rapidly adapt accordingly. What’s the next pandemic going to be? Probably not a virus, but it will make us just as vulnerable and require the same agility from the sustainment enterprise. All of this is very relevant to tomorrow and we have to be ready.--------------------Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army Logistics Initiatives Group, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Department of the Army. She holds a bachelor's degree from American University and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Logistics Initiatives Group, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Department of the Army. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgetown University.--------------------This article was published in the July-September 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook