By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 21, 2013) -- How long should a unit be self-sufficient after hitting the ground, and why can't the Army get immediate communications capability using local, established, commercial networks after arriving at a forward location?
These were questions discussed by senior Army leaders who met Nov. 20, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., to discuss lessons learned from the Army's Sept. 15-20 "Unified Quest 2013 Deep Futures War Game," held at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
The wargame took predictions about the future strategic environment from insights derived from the National Intelligence Council 2030 study and other sources, including the Army's own studies. The exercise used that information as the foundation for two teams to independently wargame the same fictional futures scenario.
Among those in the room Wednesday were Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell and Gen. Robert Cone, commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC hosted the event.
One senior Army officer wanted to know why it takes so much Army equipment and tools to get a communications network going upon hitting the ground in a military operation -- "a hundred trucks on the ground," he said. He said al Qaeda uses local network connectivity -- cell phone networks for instance -- to successfully conduct their operations. Why can't the Army use the same networks?
"Why can't I leverage the worldwide network for command and control," that officer asked.
Another officer said the Army must have a manual backup to using that global network to conduct operations, because if the enemy finds the U.S. is using their network to conduct operations -- they will simply shut it off.
But the Army must be able to take advantage of networks already in place when it hits the ground -- because the amount of communications equipment the Army brings to its fight makes it less deployable, a senior leader said. He said the global network will increase in size in the future and the Army must learn to make use of it in order to make itself lighter, and thus more deployable.
Another concern addressed: by 2025, will Army equipment be able to connect to such an open-architecture global network, if need be, or will it still be locked in to proprietary Army networks that must be brought in by a unit?
Also addressed was the amount of time a unit must be "self-sufficient" upon arriving at a deployed location, before follow-on logistic support arrives.
Ideas discussed included the importance of decreasing power usage as a way to increase self-sufficiency. Another idea briefly mentioned was the use of 3D printers as a way to create spare parts on hand for units.
The future of the Army also includes an increased emphasis on the Regionally Aligned Forces, or RAF, concept, which "has significant impact on how we support combatant commander's efforts in their areas," one officer said.
The role of RAF operations is not about combat, he said, but rather about developing relationships and ensuring access. The RAF concept allows the Army to bring to combatant commander areas of responsibility its unique ability to support humanitarian efforts, disaster relief, and nation building. The RAF concepts also put an emphasis on increasing partnership capacity.
A critical conclusion reached at the seminar was that the Army must not rely, in the future, on "strategic platforms" to project power. The Army must not depend on investments by other services in these capabilities as a way to get where it needs to be. Instead, the Army must assume there will be less of these platforms, or less access to them.
The Army must "control our own destiny," one officer said, when it comes to its ability to move. The Army must not assume more platforms will be available to move it where it needs to be, but must rather make itself smaller so there is less of it to move.