Academic journal article Military Review

Preparing for the Fight Tonight: Multi-Domain Battle and Field Manual 3-0

Academic journal article Military Review

Preparing for the Fight Tonight: Multi-Domain Battle and Field Manual 3-0

Article excerpt

This is the second of three articles discussing multi-domain battle through the lens of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. This article discusses the rationale and the approach for incorporating aspects of multi-domain battle into Field Manual 3-0, Army Operations, due to be published October 2017. In recognition of the centennial of American Expeditionary Forces entering World War I, the articles incorporate relevant historical observations and lessons to help drive home the new and differentiate it from the old.

On 10 September 2001, the Army knew it would fight and win by conducting full spectrum operations, and in 2003, the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated U.S. dominance on the battlefield. (1) In the following years, however, the force would struggle to adapt as the operational environments changed. The introspection that eventually followed led to new doctrine.

As the pace of change increases, the tension escalates between the need to prepare for future operations and the difficulty of anticipating operational environments. Resisting change, however, is not an option; the Army must adapt at least as fast as the Nations adversaries change their ways of conducting operations. Even though we can anticipate some changes and forecast certain trends, many characteristics of future environments are unknowable. To mitigate this uncertainty, Army forces must be able to constantly adapt and innovate so we can fight and win in the environments we could face--within the next five years, or "tonight"; within the next five to ten years, or "tomorrow"; and in the future beyond 2030.

The Army needs to forecast mid- and long-term trends and prepare for them to the best of its ability, but also it needs to develop operational principles that can help guide adaptability and innovation during operations and training today. Multi-domain battle bridges all these requirements.

The Example of German Doctrinal Change in World War I

From the World War I German experience, it is clear that military success depends on an organization willing to learn, a central concept that can integrate innovation and adaptation, and the ability to proliferate and spur implementation across the force. German tactical success prolonged the war at great cost to the Allies even though German forces eventually lost.

In the summer of 1914, the opposing armies of both the Central and the Allied powers anticipated a short decisive campaign, based on their doctrine and tactics. (2) However, by December of that year, the doctrinal foundations of all combatants were found wanting. Armies adapted in the fight, establishing elaborate field fortifications spanning the entirety of the western front, because none of them could afford to sustain the casualty rates incurred in the first few months of the war. The race was on for new tactics and doctrine to break the stalemate--in a conflict that would claim over 8.5 million lives before an armistice ended the war. (3)

Creating new doctrine in the midst of large-scale combat is a costly endeavor because doctrinal tactics are devised using trial and error and are paid for in blood. Among the armies of World War I, the Germans are considered the most successful in changing and implementing tactical doctrine during the war. (4) They applied a dynamic process that used a central concept, complemented with innovation originating at the tactical level and empowered by an organization willing to learn. (5)

Initially, however, German forces mired themselves in rigid doctrine. "Halten, was zu halten ist," meaning "hold on to whatever can be held," reflected German military theory behind an inelastic first-line defense lacking any real depth. (6) As the war progressed, the Allies evolved by effectively using massed artillery to support infantry assaults, with lethal results. (7) Leading up to the summer of 1916, despite failing doctrine and an evolving battle-field, the German military resisted doctrinal changes, and its relative combat power suffered. …

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