PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Urban combat has historically been among the biggest, and most deadly, challenges for militaries.
Nevertheless, populations throughout the world are increasingly moving more toward dense urban environments, making the prospects of equipping and training for the difficult terrain unavoidable in the landscape of future wars.
“I think as we start to move past defining the problems, that’s how we have to think about it,” said Brig. Gen. Mark W. Odom, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center director of Concept Development and Learning Directorate (CDLD).
“We can’t afford not to update our doctrine, capabilities and educate our forces. We may not have a choice.”
To address the problems of urban conflict, more than 130 participants, including leaders from across U.S. and foreign militaries, police, and academia, met earlier this year to take a hard look at one of warfare’s most daunting historical problems: combat in underground and dense urban environments (DUE).
With an eye toward “materiel readiness” –equipping Soldiers to succeed–the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Research, Development and Engineering Command organized the event from July 25-28 in Arlington, Virginia, so that participants could clarify thinking about future dense urban combat for the Army.
“I had a significant amount of time in Iraq and we were thrust into a situation that we were not prepared for,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, describing his experience in a dense urban environment.
“Synchronizing the effects became our main problem,” he added. “We had full control over assets, but the complexity was the problem. What we quickly realized is that noncombatants were very reluctant to leave. We found out that they quickly became combatants from the sheer fact of our presence.”
Fighting in urban environments is uniquely challenging for a host of reasons, explained Robert Hesse, Subterranean & Dense Urban Environment Working Group Operations Lead, from RDECOM’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.
For example, dense urban terrain adds a vertical dimension to combat. The “room-to-room” nature of combat, density of people and terrain, emphasizes close in fighting. Numbers of noncombatants are high, and intelligence gathering from systems or inhabitants in uniquely challenging.
“You are delving into this area of complexity,” said Maj. Gen. Robert M. Dyess, acting director of ARCIC. “You will define what the problem sets are during this workshop.”
“I will challenge the working group to help me define what the problems are,” Dyess added.
“Close battle area is most of the domain. Thinking clearly about future of armed conflict–this is about both thinking and learning. Everybody’s voice is important. That’s why this group is diverse and why we had you come here.”
“This workshop is not about solutions, it’s about problems and the conditions that lend to them,” said Hesse.
By following a solutions-oriented process supported by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Operational Environment, TRADOC Analysis Center framework, with support from the RAND Arroyo Center, the three workshops will first focus on a thorough understanding of the problem and to a lesser degree conditions. Subsequent workshops will focus on condition refinement and solutions.
“My goal is to get enough information built up to identify the near, mid, and long-term solutions as part of one Army campaign plan, synchronized into one set of activities that will build upon themselves over time,” said Anthony J. Sebasto, a senior member of RDECOM from its Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Sebasto was appointed the leader of the DUE Materiel Developer Working Group, tasked to bring together all materiel developer equities to answer questions that could benefit the Army. Sebasto hopes to deliver answers by the middle of Fiscal Year 2018.
The DUE MATDEV Measurement Space Workshop Series is in accordance with the July 2015 38th Chief of Staff of the Army assigning AMC/RDECOM the lead in the Army for DUE materiel challenges.
The objective is to sustain and improve integration and synchronization between concept, capability development and materiel development to better capitalize ongoing dense urban initiatives across Army, DoD, and other government organizations, and to drive needed science and technology investments.
This integration and synchronization is being outlined by RDECOM and TRADOC into an Army DUE Campaign Plan reflecting the key series of events helping drive all aspects of how the Army structures itself to solve DUE for the Army.
The workshop participants developed 151 dominant problem statements (with conditions) across three vignettes (humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, counterinsurgency and decisive action) for the workshops.
“I’m in awe, really, as I look at the wide variety of people and experiences you’ve been able to pull together. I think this will also be extremely useful as we move forward,” said Brig. Gen. David P. Komar, ARCIC director Capabilities Development Directorate.
“And again, what we have to do as we think through this is that were not held hostage by our own experiences. It’s very difficult to separate yourself from that and look at other ways of looking at a problem,”
Workshop participants were numerous and from a broad range of organizations:
TRADOC G-2/Combined Arms Center/Asymmetric Warfare Group, TRADOC/ARCIC Concept Development and Learning Directorate (CDLD) and Capabilities Development Directorate (CDD), TRADOC Centers of Excellence, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Forces Korea, and the Army War College
Other workshop participants also represented the U.S. Military Academy, RDECOM, Medical Research and Materiel Command, Engineering, Research and Development Center, Army Science Board, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Command Transformation, New York Police Department Counter Terrorism, University of Texas, Austin, and New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress.
Speaker quotes for this article were obtained by Robert Hesse.