Undue Emphasis of the Army #Operating Concept


The Army Operating Concept (AOC) at the outset seeks to answer three big questions: What level of war will the concept address, what will be the operating environment and what is the problem that needs solving? The AOC then goes on to answer this in the preface and beyond with some examples that seem to miss the mark on both scope and nature of the environment as it pertains to the Army itself. After addressing many of the human aspects of conflict, the AOC starts looking at the technologies it might need in the future to wage war and build partners. While that is fine for external readers of the document, it leaves little comfort to the soldiers now serving that “big Army,” nor does it address the cost of service to the man or how to address this in order to continue the full-alert status the AOC seems to prepare for.

When discussing the environment, it would be appropriate to include the aspects impacting both friendly forces and threat. Yet from the outset, and continually through the document, the AOC seems to misunderstand the Army it addresses, particularly regarding the aspect of organizational culture. If the Army – an institution of people, not systems – is going to plan for the future of warfare, it has to understand itself today. In several instances, the AOC addresses human and intellectual attributes (creative thought and initiative, p. 5; the Army’s ability to establish a military government, p. 8; use of cognitive sciences, p. 13) that are seemingly inconsistent with the current culture of the Army (at the aggregate) and can only be truly developed with significant cultural shift.

If the Army is to meet the intent of remaining a professional, all volunteer force AND develop the desired attributes of intellect, initiative and trustworthy, autonomous leaders WHILE remaining in constant contact with multiple partners and adversaries and reducing spending, the current system will have to change. Recruiting, training, education and retention must begin to address the individual. Physical training needs to mirror the athlete and education to mirror the scholar where development and enhancement are utilized more and recovery and repair are needed less.

A secondary area receiving undue emphasis is the role of technology on the environment. After opening with a discussion of the “contest of wills” and the importance of capability in the context of endurance, the AOC puts significant emphasis on the use of technology to make the Army better and more capable. Admittedly, technology can be a powerful thing when used appropriately, but finding the funding balance between gadgets and field time is critical. In the past 100 years, most major conflicts have not been won through superior technology, but through superior training and desire. The Germans in the 1940s had many technological advantages yet lost to Allied will and volume. In today’s world, the commitment of violent radicals to their cause or a cartel to illicit income is able to circumvent U.S. technological capacity more days than not.

As part of a joint force, the Army is the singular service that needs the man more than the machine. Had the AOC ended with using technology to enhance superior training, it may have been on the mark. But by setting the stage to maintain budgetary pace with the other services, the Army may find itself in 2020 with rooms of gear and no one to use it. The AOC should instead concede that the Army need not be a high-tech service, but leave that to the other branches of the military. Instead, the AOC should make the case for improving the person; investing in training, improvement physically and mentally and allowing the flexibility for the person to support the ally or control the enemy.


Krisjand Rothweiler is a U.S. Army intelligence officer. The views expressed belong to the author alone and do not represent the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


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