A Discussion About Power Projection and Mobilization

Aug 17, 2020 | DTJ Online, Surface Force Projection Conference

MG Kurt J. Ryan, USA, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), presented A Discussion About Power Projection and Mobilization during the Surface Force Projection Virtual Conference on July 30, 2020.

The conference was presented by the National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA) and Christopher Newport University’s Center for American Studies (CNU CAS), in collaboration with the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). The theme of this year’s conference was Enabling Dynamic Force Employment Through Global Port Readiness.

The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) published The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) pamphlet 525-3-1 in December of 2018. It has become a framework and concept for Army training and modernization through 2028. “[This concept] helps us see ourselves a little better, it helps us see our potential adversaries that we may compete against, and then we train to, and prepare, and build to that,” said Ryan.

The pamphlet describes the multi-domain operational environment, including the air, land, maritime, and cyber domains. It also lays out the need to be prepared to fight and win under a persistent and all-domain attack. Potential adversaries described in the pamphlet mirror those defined in the National Defense Strategy (NDS) 2018. The NDS places primary importance on the ability to fight and win against near-peer competitors, with near-peer competitors being the primary adversaries of concern.

The Army, particularly the Army Futures Command, is using this document to identify what will be needed in future weapon systems, capabilities, and formations. The concept provides insights into dynamic force employment and the need for the US to maintain its strategic comparative advantage globally. It also describes adversaries’ goals—their desire to separate the US from its partners and allies; to deny America the ability to project instruments of power militarily, informationally, diplomatically, and economically; and to deny the US the ability to sustain globally deployed forces, in part by contesting critical air, sea, and land Lines of Communication (LOCs).

The document ends with three core tenets of MDO: calibrate force posture, multi-domain formations, and convergence. Calibrated force posture is the ability to keep forces stationed forward in the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), then be able to rapidly deploy an initial immediate response force, followed by contingency response forces. The immediate response force is quick by air, while the contingency response forces provide mass by sea and air.

The document stresses the importance of building multi-domain operations formations. The Army is currently in the process of doing this, to include building multi-dimensional task forces and other capabilities to provide the Army overmatch and capabilities where they may be lacking.

It introduces the concept of convergence. This is the rapid and continuous integration of capabilities in all domains, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the information environment that optimizes effects to overmatch the enemy through cross-domain synergy and multiple forms of attack all enabled by mission command and disciplined initiative.

“The document, quite frankly, has asked me to or cause me to ask a couple questions. First, how do we at Forces Command, as the force provider, assist in delivering capability to our point of need?” said Ryan. “The Joint Deployment Distribution Enterprise (JDDE) is the United States Army’s lift to the fight. We can’t get there by ourselves. We have very limited capability to self-deploy, and frankly, self-deployment for the United States Army is inside the continental United States—it’s by convoy to places in support of NORTHCOM [US Northern Command].”

The pamphlet also caused Ryan to consider sustainment challenges in a contested or denied operating environment. This includes challenges that may apply specifically to sealift, airlift, rail, trucking, power projection platforms, or the capacity to produce throughput and output through port systems.

Forces Command is a four-star headquarters stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It mission commands all Army conventional forces in the continental US. Established in 1942, its mission is to train and prepare a combat-ready globally responsive total force comprised of active soldiers, the US Army Reserves, and Army National Guard. Through this mission, FORSCOM helps build and sustain readiness to meet Combatant Commanders’ requirements.

For FORSCOM, readiness involves three things—people, equipment, and training. The command’s people include the 745,000 soldiers assigned and living in the continental US, and the 185,000 soldiers currently rotating deployed forward to 140 countries across the globe. Those soldiers come back to the US to reset, refit, retrain, and then become available to future COCOM requirements. Eighty-five percent of the US Army’s equipment resides inside the continental US. For it to be relevant, it has to be able to project and go to and meet COCOM requirements. Training includes training in a multi-domain environment and to large-scale combat operations. Before 2016, training concentrated on counter-insurgency operations in support of the long wars. FORSCOM training is for individual small unit collective crew all the way to Army-level commands.

FORSCOM executes its mission through mission command of a number of training activities. This includes training at home stations, as well as at the command’s two compact training centers. Those are the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana, which focuses on light fighters, and the National Training Center in California, which focuses on combat-heavy formation striker and armor formations. It also trains through a series of warfighting exercises.

“Critical to our mission is to exercise mobilization—mobilization in support of large OPLANs [Operation Plans] or rotational force requirements to COCOMs annually,” said Ryan. “We do that through rehearsals of concept and actual mobilizing and standing up mobilization force generation installations—nine of them—to test the capacity and the throughput of those mobilization centers if we have to do it to scale.”

Emergency Drill Readiness Exercises (EDRE) are a key element of FORSCOM’s ability to build deployment capability. These exercises stress the JDDE, and strategic support areas, particularly power projection platforms. “And if you’ve ever been through a no notice Emergency Drill Readiness Exercise of Forces Command, it stresses the commands because they are no notice, they are unannounced, and they have to move with speed and deploy their formations very rapidly to their designated location,” described Ryan.

FORSCOM also exercises and trains through rotational force deployments to COCOMSs and large exercises such as Defender Europe, Defender Pacific, and other smaller-scale exercises globally in support of Combatant Commanders, theater security, and cooperation programs.

“Bottom line: All this training, all these processes, help build ready forces that rotate to and through our COCOMs and then return back to home station,” said Ryan. Describing some of the command’s recent deployment activities, he added, “Forces Command, the United States Army, is always in motion. It is exercising a high operational tempo of deploying and deployed forces, and I see really no change in that in the near future.”

Ryan concluded his remarks by complimenting the role SDDC’s Port Diversification Program has played in helping to build readiness, not only in the JDDE but also in FORSCOM. “It allows Forces Command to get to seaports that they may not have flown through in 20 or 25 years,” he said. “And we need to keep putting that demand on our ports because we will need them all in time of great power competition. When we have to flow large forces to our Combatant Commands, we will need each and every one of them.”

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