U.S. Army Updates Draft Multi-Domain Battle Operating Concept

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has released a revised draft version of its Multi-Domain Battle operating concept, titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century, 2025-2040.” Clearly a work in progress, the document is listed as version 1.0, dated October 2017, and as a draft and not for implementation. Sydney J. Freeberg, Jr. has an excellent run-down on the revision at Breaking Defense.

The update is the result of the initial round of work between the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to redefine the scope of the multi-domain battlespace for the Joint Force. More work will be needed to refine the concept, but it shows remarkable cooperation in forging a common warfighting perspective between services long-noted for their independent thinking.

On a related note, Albert Palazzo, an Australian defense thinker and one of the early contributors to the Multi-Domain Battle concept, has published the first of a series of articles at The Strategy Bridge offering constructive criticism of the U.S. military’s approach to defining the concept. Palazzo warns that the U.S. may be over-emphasizing countering potential Russian and Chinese capabilities in its efforts and not enough on the broad general implications of long-range fires with global reach.

What difference can it make if those designing Multi-Domain Battle are acting on possibly the wrong threat diagnosis? Designing a solution for a misdiagnosed problem can result in the inculcation of a way of war unsuited for the wars of the future. One is reminded of the French Army during the interwar period. No one can accuse the French of not thinking seriously about war during these years, but, in the doctrine of the methodical battle, they got it wrong and misread the opportunities presented by mechanisation. There were many factors contributing to France’s defeat, but at their core was a misinterpretation of the art of the possible and a singular focus on a particular way of war. Shaping Multi-Domain Battle for the wrong problem may see the United States similarly sow the seeds for a military disaster that is avoidable.

He suggests that it would be wise for U.S. doctrine writers to take a more considered look at potential implications before venturing too far ahead with specific solutions.

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Shawn Woodford
Shawn Woodford

Shawn Robert Woodford, Ph.D., is a military historian with nearly two decades of research, writing, and analytical experience on operations, strategy, and national security policy. His work has focused on special operations, unconventional and paramilitary warfare, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, naval history, quantitative historical analysis, nineteenth and twentieth century military history, and the history of nuclear weapon development. He has a strong research interest in the relationship between politics and strategy in warfare and the epistemology of wargaming and combat modeling.

All views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of any other private or public organization or entity.

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