WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2015 – Success in future armed conflict boils down to ensuring the capabilities put in place today can match the threats of the future, deputy commanding general for futures, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said here today.
Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who also serves as director of Army Capabilities Integration Center, told the audience at International Security’s “Future of War” conference that because threats have changed, American responses must change as well.
Nations were the source of threats in the past, he said. Today, they also come from nonstate actors and the confluence of networked insurgent and terrorist organizations bridging over into transnational organized crime networks and having access to capabilities they didn’t have in the past.
The capabilities include communications, mobilized resources and access to destructive technologies. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is one such group, the general said, and Russia’s use of special operations forces under cover from regular forces in Ukraine also serves as an example of why the U.S. military must balance continuity in the nature of war with change in the character of warfare.
Width, Depth, Context
Officials should look at war “in width, depth and in context,” McMaster said. Width means looking at war over time to understand how war and warfare have changed, and to understand the possibilities and limitations of the future.
By depth, he said, he means looking at a campaign and examining all aspects of it, “so you see war as it is: chaotic and profoundly human.”
Finally, he said, officials should consider war in the context of what the United States wants to achieve politically in armed conflict, what the military’s role is in American society, and what needs to happen for societies to generate and sustain the will to engage in armed conflicts.
America’s Differential Advantage
American military power is joint power, the general noted, as the military uses land, air, maritime, space and cyber capabilities together, with each dependent on the other. “America’s differential advantage over the enemy has to do with skilled soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and teams with multiple technologies that give us the advantage,” McMaster said.
Capitalizing on that is the way forward for the military, he added.
In Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is engaged in a limited war for limited objectives, McMaster said. “Go into Ukraine, take some territory at very low cost and very low risk, and then portray the international community’s reaction as escalatory. How do you cope with that?” he asked.
One of the ways to do it is forward deterrence, which entails ratcheting up the price of such actions, the general said. “We undervalue deterrent capabilities at our own peril,” he added.
Countering Anti-access Technologies
Being able to operate in contested areas will be a problem for the future, McMaster said, and all services must be concerned about countering anti-access technologies and strategies, including in cyberspace.
“From the Army perspective, we are going to have to project power outward from land into the maritime, air, space and cyber domains to ensure our freedom of movement and action in those domains and restrict the enemy’s use of them,” he said.
Enemies will increasingly use urban areas as terrorist safe havens or as launching points for missiles or other long-range strikes, McMaster said.
“For the Army, we’re going to have to conduct what I call expeditionary maneuver,” he added. “That’s rapidly deploying forces to unexpected locations to bypass anti-access. But that can’t just be a force that gets there. It has to be a force that has the mobility, protection and have lethality to operate.”