Seeks rel­e­vance in shift to new meth­ods of war

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

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.

Crit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity

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.

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