#Operating in a (Fiscally) Constrained Environment: Where the Army Operating Concept Misses the Mark

If Air-Land Battle focused on employment of weapons systems (the “Big Five”) to fight and win outnumbered, the current construct, which recently replaced Unified Land Operations, focuses on soldier, leader, and organizational adaptability to win in a complex world. The document in my mind departs from what this concept should do: describe how the army fights in the future. A senior general officer in the Department of the Army put it best:

“…it is the incorporation of Regionally Aligned Forces as the strategic shaping operation for incremental refinements of Air-Land Battle—under a different label…”

Bearing that in mind, Regionally Aligned Forces would seem to be the desired, aspirational operating concept. The previous edition of the AOC (not published) was clearly re-tooled to support the 2025 and Beyond effort and seems to be the heuristic to drive ARCIC’s 2025 and Beyond efforts. The fundamental assertion behind the 2025 effort is that innovation has been stymied by the existing Army and Defense process. TRADOC has engaged in a steady campaign to co-opt or even assume governance of programming and prioritization authorities to proceed with what has been described as “necessary, radical innovation.”

A recent comment from a senior ARCIC officer describes the Department as “a valley of nos.” I would counter it is more so a “valley of whats,” to better describe the puzzlement of the G-3/5/7 in determining the value or meaning behind the concept. The tension is not between the Department and TRADOC. We need TRADOC to do the DOTMLPF analysis on the future Army, as they are empowered to do, not bitterly dispute the programming process. The constraints of the Budget Control Act in concert with a polity unwilling to use this particular instrument of national power for large-scale, sustained land operations, makes this construct difficult to visualize or implement, even for the seasoned concept development professional. I assume that the Army Capstone Concept will require revision (and should very well be the label of this document).

Finally, if one believes the world is more unpredictable and complex than it has ever been, one is seemingly ignorant of history. I wonder if Kosciuszko would have echoed similar esoteric, unintelligible concerns to Jefferson on the collapsing Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth he would later try to save. Probably not, as both of them lived in very uncertain and complex times. Regardless, not negating the efforts of those who put substantial effort into the process, it falls far short of the mark, unless we were to find ourselves restored to unconstrained resources.

Perhaps therein lies the rub; we most likely will not, and that is the future we should plan for.

Bryan Rozman is a U.S. Army strategist. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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