Seeks relevance in shift to new methods of war
said. “China and Russia will not fight us the way we have gotten used to fighting.”
Within that Pentagon budget of $718 billion, Defense Department leaders have set a baseline request of $545 billion and are calling for $165 billion to finance ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as part of the Overseas Contingency Operations, or wartime funding accounts, according to the Defense Department.
Of the Pentagon’s $718 billion top-line figure, Navy leaders would receive $205 billion in the coming fiscal year, an increase of roughly $9 billion over last year’s request by the sea service of $196 billion, service officials told reporters. The Army’s share of the fiscal 2020 budget would total $190 billion, an $8 billion uptick over last year’s service budget, top Army brass said.
But the Army’s budget battle plan is perhaps the most strategically ambitious of those put forth by service leaders. The ground service stands to lose the most if it cannot successfully make the case for its role in the new NDS world.
Although the Army has been in near constant ground combat in the Middle East and Southwest Asia for nearly two decades, its role in confronting Russia and China in a conflict would be much murkier, given the inherent focus on air and maritime operations in such missions.
The blueprint seeks to strengthen the Army’s capabilities in areas such as cyber, electronic and information warfare, and to boost its role in advising foreign forces — all with an eye toward curbing Russian and Chinese influence in the Pacific and Eastern Europe.
But the Army’s newly minted strategy, known as Multi-Domain Operations, or MDO, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy put forth by traditional special operations forces, which are also looking to pivot away from the terrorist threats of the post-9/11 era and toward those emanating from Russia and China.
Those parallel efforts could set the stage for a bureaucratic fight over who carries out what missions in the decades ahead.
Backers of the Army strategy see the proposed budget as a critical opportunity to secure the service’s role in the U.S. defense architecture and as a boon for its languishing weapons programs.
“The Army is about to crack open plenty of funding eggs, and Congress should let it get cooking,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Spoehr said, but that push could face resistance on Capitol Hill.
“Everyone thus far, including members of Congress, seems OK with [the Army] strategy. But it is about to get more difficult because what seems OK in the abstract often gets difficult” once lawmakers weigh in on those spending plans, said Mr. Spoehr, now director of the Center for National Defense at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The Army’s budget proposal seeks $12 billion for research and development of next-generation weapons and combat systems such as extreme long-range artillery and advanced air and missile defenses that equipment service leaders say they need to carry out the new multidomain strategy. Additional investments in unmanned systems, artificial intelligence and cyberwarfare will put the Army on par with ongoing efforts by Moscow and Beijing to modernize their militaries, a top Army officer said.
To synchronize a combat campaign, the challenge is to align effects from the cyber and information warfare realms onto the battlefield, Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy chief for Futures Command, told reporters last week. “This is real hard to get after, but quite frankly, we see our peers doing it pretty aggressively each day.”
Officials at U.S. Special Operations Command are drafting their own guidance to reorient the command’s cadre of military units to take on a larger role in cyberwarfare, information and “influence” — digital age propaganda — operations, sources say, as well as training allies in the skills.