Academic journal article Military Review

The Indo-Asia Pacific and the Multi-Domain Battle Concept

Academic journal article Military Review

The Indo-Asia Pacific and the Multi-Domain Battle Concept

Article excerpt

The United States Armed Forces are at a cross-roads, facing both institutional and operational challenges. The character of war continues to change at a quick pace, requiring military leaders to reassess some of their core beliefs. This situation has led to the testing and refinement of concepts, capabilities, and people to ensure U.S. forces are ready for the conflicts of today and tomorrow. Without doubt, any future conflict will be increasingly complex and distributed, involving actions across multiple domains--land, air, sea, space, and cyber--by multiple military services, at times simultaneously (see figure, page 16). (1) The nascent multi-domain battle concept, some elements of which are described in a forthcoming white paper jointly authored by the Army and the Marine Corps, addresses the increasing complexity of the battlefield and its requirement for service integration. (2) While still in development and experimentation, the concept is already affecting operational and resource decisions, especially in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

This article presents three topics to illustrate how we are thinking about the implementation of the multi-domain battle concept in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. First, it briefly discusses the strategic situation in the Indo-Asia Pacific, which typifies the need for a new operating concept to integrate all the United States Armed Forces. Next, it describes the multi-domain battle concept, including the three elements that help define its desired effects: joint integration, technology, andpeople. Finally, it presents a vignette of multi-domain battle as it might apply at the tactical level.

The Strategic Context in the Indo-Asia Pacific

Given that the international state of play in this region is more tenuous than ever, the multi-domain battle concept is sorely needed. The region contains thirty-six countries in sixteen time zones, more than half the worlds population, and twenty-four of the thirty-six megacities on Earth, and it covers more than half the worlds surface area. (3) The region contains three of the worlds largest economies, seven of the largest militaries, and five of the United States' seven mutual defense agreement partners. (4) According to Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of United States Pacific Command, "approximately $5.3 trillion in annual global trade relies on unimpeded access to sea lanes [such as those in the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, and] $1.2 trillion of this sea-based trade destined to, or exported from the United States." (5) Additionally, "the Strait of Malacca alone sees more than 25 percent of oil shipments and 50 percent of all natural gas transits each day," (6) In addition, the area is disaster-prone, with its typhoons, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and other events representing "over 60 percent of the worlds natural disasters." (7) In short, global prosperity hinges on the stability and security of this vast and complex region.

These demographic and economic dynamics interact with the increased rate of technological change to add to the political and military complexity found in the Indo-Asia Pacific. Dramatic technological shifts created by unmanned capabilities, robotic learning, artificial intelligence, nanotech, biotech, and big data are only expanding military competition between geopolitical rivals. Much of these new technological tools depend on the use of digital connectivity--with seven billion devices being connected to the Internet in 2016 and a projected fifty billion by 2020--only increasing the already dangerous situation in cyberspace and its dependence on space assets for connectivity. (8)

Technological shifts are also feeding and increasing security challenges in the Indo-Asia Pacific, with some the worlds most intractable problems among them. Challenges include an increasingly belligerent North Korea that is sharing its increasingly capable missile technology with Iran, a growing China that is challenging international rules and norms, a revanchist Russia that is increasingly active in the Pacific with a provocative military posture, continuing nuclear-backed friction between India and Pakistan, increasing activities by violent extremist networks operating in partner and ally nations, and political and diplomatic instability from changes in executive leadership of key regional allies and partners. …

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