MG Wesley places cross-domain maneuver in context of threat environment, new maneuver concept

Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia, lead for Future Maneuver Operations at Fort Benning, talk cross-domain maneuver on stage during the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning Jan. 9.

Story by Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs

Photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 11, 2018) – The commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence talked about the Maneuver Functional Concept during the first day of the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jan. 9.

Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, MCoE and Fort Benning commander, gave an overview of the four-pronged concept set to drive maneuver force modernization for the Army, which includes conducting cross-domain maneuver (also the theme of the conference), operating semi-independently, integrating reconnaissance and security operations, and realizing mission command.

“If you don’t have a perspective on the future or the concept you want to build towards, the only place you have the ability to go to is to the force you always knew,” said Wesley on the need to think about the future of Army warfare.

The place to start, according to Wesley, is to study the current threat environment.

“Our adversaries – our peers – have studied the United States Army, and they’ve watched us in our dominance over the last 25 years or so,” said Wesley. “They’ve concluded that they want no part of close combat with the United States Army. And everything they’re doing right now is to avoid that.”

Adversaries have achieved standoff by leveraging the resources of cyberspace (social media, communications), through air defense, through long-range mass precision fires, and by employing unmarked personnel and equipment, the last of which creates ambiguity in close combat.

Understanding this problem – that adversaries have invested in these forms of standoff – was crucial to develop a new way forward, specifically the four-fold Movement and Maneuver Functional Concept. Cross-domain maneuver – or the integration of capabilities in land, maritime, air, space and cyberspace – was the first part of the four-part solution.

“The role of the tactical commanders is going to be to optimize all domains to his benefit such that the sum of those capabilities is bigger than the individual parts,” said Wesley. “That is what gives you overmatch.”

Wesley shows a visualization of cross-domain maneuver, or the integration of capabilities in land, maritime, air, space and cyberspace domains.

Wesley then showed the audience a slide with five layers, each representing one of the five domains, lines stretching back and forth between the vertically placed layers.

“What you see reflected there is just a notional overlay of each,” said Wesley. “This is not new, because when we developed AirLand Battle, what did we do? We said we wanted to defeat the enemy in depth and that we wanted to integrate the air so that we can get the sum of our capabilities greater than just the close fight. That’s the same thing we’re doing here except we’re adding domains to the problem set.

Wesley then delved into the next part of the solution: operating semi-independently. Part of semi-independent operations is in reaction to constraints, but Wesley also pointed out the advantages of migrating command decisions to smaller units.

“If you’re dispersed, and you can’t talk, and you can’t communicate, then you’ve got a problem,” said Wesley. “That means you have to operate semi-independently. And it’s not just about what the enemy can do, it’s about the opportunity it provides us. Because in a hyperactive battlefield that we describe that becomes non-contiguous over time with sensors that are ubiquitous, independence will be critical to take advantage of opportunities.”

Wesley clarified that the third point – integrating reconnaissance and surveillance –meant integrating R&S across formations, capabilities and echelons.

“If you have non-contiguous battlespace, and you have unoccupied space, who has responsibility for orchestrating and integrating the reconnaissance capabilities within that space?” Wesley asked rhetorically. “Echelons above brigade will have a critical role in conducting the integration of the unoccupied space.”

The last part of the solution was the exercise of mission command, or enabling subordinate leaders to act on their own initiative. Part of this is because communications, one of the elements in the cyberspace domain, and actual unit dispersion requires it. Wesley made clear that the last point might also require a significant cultural change has to take place.

“This ubiquitous communications capability has created an environment where we’ve become dependent on connectivity,” said Wesley. “If we’re not connected, this has to be executed, and we can’t depend on permission, because opportunities will escape us if we don’t. We will miss opportunities if we don’t empower subordinate commanders to execute mission command the way we write the doctrine as opposed to the way we behave.”

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