Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

"Thinking about What Could Be": An Interview with General John M. Murray, Commanding General Army Futures Command

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

"Thinking about What Could Be": An Interview with General John M. Murray, Commanding General Army Futures Command

Article excerpt

What were the circumstances that led to the creation of Army Futures Command? In other words, what is the problem that the creation of the new command is the solution to?

Army Futures Command is an adaptation to the on-going change in the international order we have seen since the end of World War Two. The rules of the road for international order have changed; Russian destabilization of Ukraine, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the inevitable shift from an Atlantic-based global economy to a Pacific-based economy.

Russia and China watched the American way of war, first in Operation Desert Storm and then in the opening phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and fundamentally decided that close combat with the United States and our allies was not a winning proposition. Their concept of layered standoff-which we think is fundamental to their theory of victory-beginning below the threshold of war, sees constant competition below that threshold. We have seen it in Ukraine, the South China Sea, and the Baltics; all attempting to achieve strategic objectives below the threshold of war.

In western society we tend to see long periods of peace interrupted by short periods of war as the norm, while many of our adversaries see the world in constant competition-not necessarily always military, but through all the elements of national power; diplomatic, information, economics, as well as military. That's a different kind of world perspective; but from a U.S. Army perspective, our almost singular focus on counterinsurgency for the last 18 years-which was exactly what was needed when you are losing soldiers each and every day on those battlefields-cost us an entire generation of modernization. We also suffered some pretty large failures in developmental programs; Crusader, Comanche, and Future Combat Systems, which basically means that we are fighting today with the same platforms we fought with when I was a company commander back in the mid-1980s. They have different capabilities now because they have been upgraded over time, but the fact remains that the architecture is the same; the physics that went into building the Abrams and the Bradley are 40 year old technologies.

These were the big things that contributed to the Army's decision to modernize; and the four most senior Army leaders-the Army Chief of Staff, the Secretary of the Army, the Undersecretary, and the Vice Chief of Staff-were in unison in their visions of what the Army needed to do and how we were going to do it. Specifically regarding the Army Futures Command, General Mark Milley at that time looked at the enterprise called the Army and saw there was really nobody focused on modernization; all focused on the short term with nobody looking deep into the future to figure out what the future operational environment might look like. Nobody was anticipating the next operating concepts inside that environment, and nobody was looking at what had to be developed to succeed.

Modernization is a continuous process requiring collaboration across the entire Army. Army Futures Command (AFC) under the direction of Headquarters, Department of the Army, brings unity of effort to the Army's modernization approach by developing and delivering future concepts, requirements, and organizational designs based on its assessment of the future operating environment. Before AFC, the first place modernization was synchronized was at the Chiefs and Secretary of the Army level. That lack of unity of effort and unity of command, that lack of a command focused on the future and what the future challenges might be-beyond material-and the need to orchestrate the effort is really what led to the establishment of the Army Futures Command.

How has the Command been stood up?

It started off as a task force: we uncased the colors here in Austin in August 2018, so we are 14 months old. Across the entire command we have gone from about 40 to 26,000 personnel; here in Austin we have about 400 on the ground, and a requirement for another 100. …

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