FORT BENNING, Ga. — Gunfire erupts in the distance, making the American Soldiers instinctively duck their heads. The squad's medic can see the elevated heart rates reported from each biomedical sensor on their bodies. Standing up from his concealed position, the squad leader pulls out a small electronic device while the rest of his team grip their next-generation rifles. He uses the device to maneuver a drone forward of their position to check on the status of the sensors and robots ahead. While this may sound like science fiction, all these are examples of the combat developments that the Maneuver Capability Development Integration Directorate, or M-CDID, has been working on.
Combat development has always been important to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. In 2005, TRADOC leveraged the base realignment and closure to reorganize and form the CDIDs. The M-CDID stood up in 2008 and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2011, where it has remained since. The M-CDID presently falls under United States Army Futures Command, which is accountable for transforming the Army to ensure war-winning future readiness.
Since its inception, the mission of the M-CDID has been to determine and develop future force capabilities and future infantry and armor requirements across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership development, personnel, facilities and policy, or DOTMLPF-P, domains, resulting in a trained and ready maneuver force fully integrated into Army, combined and joint operations, to maintain the battlefield primacy of our Soldiers and the formations in which they fight.
Consisting of roughly 300 personnel, the M-CDID is separated into four core functions: concept development, requirements determination, experimentation and capability integration, with some of the core functions further broken down. While the Concepts Development Division is stand-alone and the experimentation function is covered by the Maneuver Battle Lab, the rest of the M-CDID can be broken down even further.
Capabilities development resides in one of three different requirements divisions covering Soldier, maneuver and robotics requirements determination. The Soldier Requirements Division is responsible for leading Soldier requirements, recommending priorities, documenting changes and supporting analysis for the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
The Maneuver Requirements Division ensures materiel requirements produce a more lethal, agile and deployable force capable of deterring or decisively defeating future adversaries. The Maneuver Requirements Division covers three functional areas: light vehicle systems, heavy vehicle systems and mission command branches.
The Robotics Requirements Division integrates and harmonizes robotic capabilities in support of brigade combat teams, known as BCTs. Additionally, the Robotics Requirements Division develops and manages requirements generation, force transformation, industry engagement and concept development of robotic capabilities.
The capability integration division comprises different Army Capability Manager, or ACM, BCTs; including the ACM Armored BCT, ACM Stryker BCT, ACM Infantry BCT and the ACM Security Force Assistance Brigade.
“One of the things that makes Maneuver a little different from some of the other CDIDs is our focus on formations,” said Col. Rhett Thompson, director of M-CDID. “The ACMs all maintain the pulse of the operating force through unit visits and visits to the combat training centers.”
The ACM Armored BCT ensures integration, synchronization and centralized capability management of DOTMLPF-P requirements for armored brigade combat teams and reconnaissance formations. ACM Stryker BCT acts as the Army’s centralized manager for fielded force integrator activities associated with the Stryker BCT. It serves as a liaison with each Stryker BCT to understand mission-essential needs and obtain concerns on current and future operations.
The ACM Infantry BCT integrates and synchronizes requirements across the dimensions of DOTMLPF-P for 33 infantry brigades, both active component and National Guard, to ensure success on the battlefield. The ACM SFAB engages and influences key stakeholder forums, especially capability developers, materiel developers, testers, HQDA and Total Army Analysis, to mitigate and resolve capability gaps. The SFAB also influences high-level decisions to ensure proper resourcing decisions to support SFAB transformation.
In transforming the maneuver force, the M-CDID works closely with the Futures and Concepts Center director of concepts. The M-CDID Concepts Development Division integrates studies and analysis of threat forces to upgrade the current operational environment and design the future armored, infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams. The Maneuver Battle Lab works with the concept through experimentation.
“Experimentation takes a while, and it’s an iterative process to refine concepts,” Thompson said. “Once you refine your experiments through virtual experimentation, you usually get to live experimentation. At Fort Benning, we have A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, known as the Army’s Experimental Force for live experimentation.”
One of the Army's most extensive annual experiments is the Army Expeditionary Warfare Experiments, or AEWE. AEWE is the oldest of the Army Focused Warfighting Experiments series designed to provide responsive risk reduction live field experiments. The experiments assess multi-domain operations concepts, capabilities and formations at echelon — tactical and operational.
“We are looking at different concepts involved with the major warfighters that are coming up and trying to glean insights from those so that we can apply that insight to future concepts and organizational structures inside of brigades,” Thompson said.
The M-CDID works closely with a vast array of organizations in the Army, including the Maneuver Battle Lab, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Combined Arms Center, Next Generation Combat Vehicles and Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Teams, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, a wide variety of program executive offices, many other CDIDs including medical, fires and sustainment, and various members of academia when working with the M-CDID robotics division.
“In the future, we see forwards lines of sensors, robots and then troops,” Thompson said. “In the future, our Soldiers shouldn’t be making initial contact with the enemy, it should be some sort of sensor or robot.”
Working at the M-CDID differs from most other places Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians can work. Many Soldiers from operational commands are used to a fast-paced environment where results are seen in the years they spend in their organizations. While working for the M-CDID, Soldiers and civilians are focused on creating concepts and experimenting with new technology and doctrine that takes years to enter the force.
"When you are here at the CDID, you don't always see the fruits of your labor as you do in an operational unit," Thompson said. "It can be hard to get quick wins because to develop something that will become a program of record that is sustainable to the Army and have it funded can take a long time."
Because the M-CDID works with formations and different brigades and corps, they can work with direct feedback from the operational force.
“We’re here for brigades and units, and we appreciate feedback from external organizations, because if we can’t maintain our relevance, then it’s tough for us to understand the challenges of maneuver force,” Thompson said. “We’re always open to feedback from the operational force at all levels, and we may not have the answer here, but a lot of times, we can help folks find the person who does have the answer, or we can make the answer better.”