HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Defining the characteristics and parameters of future battlefields is an expansive task, but one the Army is poised to execute strategically.
Army Futures Command in particular is playing a leadership role in improving understanding of the future operational environment to inform the Army’s operational approach in 2040, as outlined in a fireside chat held at AUSA Global Force in Huntsville on March 29.
The two AFC speakers featured in the fireside chat, Director of Intelligence and Security Ed Mornston and Futures and Concepts Center Director of Concepts Brig. Gen. Stephanie Ahern, impressed upon the audience the criticality of painting a realistic picture of new warfighting challenges and opportunities.
“I consider this to be work of great importance,” Mornston said.
Mornston shared that AFC has four core functions when it comes to transforming the Army for future war-winning readiness, all of which must be informed by the future operational environment: developing concepts, conducting research, executing experiments and developing requirements for materiel and non-materiel solutions.
“All of these functions need to be informed about the threat,” Mornston said, adding that “warfighting concepts are the North Star of transformation and modernization.”
Mornston explained that AFC’s intent is “to assess the future operational environment, emerging threats and the technology that these threats will use, and then integrate those assessments into everything else.”
“This task really identifies the relationship between knowledge of the threat and concept development,” Mornston said, specifying that analysts evaluate both “the pacing challenge and the acute threat.”
Additional factors assessed include global trends in technology, economics, demographics, climate change, food and water security, and infectious diseases.
The command also studies the trajectories of near-peer competitors, harnessing intelligence insights to inform future readiness activities, and updates its internal future operational environment document frequently to reflect shifts in trends and capabilities.
“That’s because of the realization that the environment is not static,” Mornston said, noting that the document will continue to be updated at frequent intervals.
“The challenges are immense, and it will be a much different environment then than it is now,” Mornston said of the future operational environment.
Elements of the future battlefield are likely to include greater transparency, contested logistics, urban warfare, “more actors with very high-end capabilities,” and increasingly lethal weapons with longer ranges,” Mornston explained.
“Activity on the surface of the earth – and even underwater and other places – will be ubiquitously sensed,” he said.
“Denying the adversary the ability to collect information on us will be part of the fight.”
With this intelligence, AFC is coordinating closely with Army and joint force, international allies, and science and technology partners to build new operational understanding and integrated guidelines for the future.
“The teammates that are working this 2040 effort are really broad by design,” Ahern said.
Ahern detailed how wargaming is an integral part of Army 2040 planning that allows the Army to translate lessons learned into revised plans and policies.
“The idea that we can’t transform in isolation is happening at the ground level as well,” Ahern said, noting her team had just recently concluded a wargaming exercise with more than 270 participants and 73 different organizations — just one example of the command’s commitment to persistent experimentation.
“We have a sense of urgency, but there is so much left we have to learn,” Ahern said, emphasizing that protection and sustainment will be key areas for further understanding.
“The concepts have to be informing how we can operate, how we can organize and how we can equip differently,” she said.
“We have an obligation to press the boundaries of what could be, especially because we’re not the only ones that are changing.”