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Ryan McCarthy, Undersecretary of the Army, speaks to attendees of the 2018 FIRES Conference.

In the middle of Oklahoma on the Old Chisholm Trail, the United States Army brought their “Fires” together at Fort Sill. This vast enterprise included air defense and long distance fires, two of the top six U.S. Army priorities with their newly appointed Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) to exponentially speed up the requirement and development processes for new fielded systems that today take 15 to 20 years to field. The six CFTs made up of one star generals will be further empowered with new authorities by the new upcoming Army Futures Command, led by four star general, and the full support of the Undersecretary Of the Army, Ryan McCarthy. This new approach of flattening the encumbered vertical processes that have been self-imposed and continue to severely hamper the U.S. Army in its effectiveness and relevancy to modernize to compete against the near peers of China and Russia is in full alignment with the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who stated, “The department will transition to a culture of performance and affordability that operates at the speed of relevance. Success does not go to the country that develops a new technology first, but rather, to the one that better integrates it and more swiftly adapts its way of fighting,” and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan.

Adding to the Army exposure of not developing, not testing, and not fielding fast enough is the tectonic shift from the post 1973 – Cold War – Air-Land doctrine to the new Multi Domain Doctrine that is threat driven, not capability driven, of how the United States will deter and win. The days of phase zero planning and increased phases in a linear build up are gone, as Russia and China demonstrate their clear doctrine of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) defeating the linear close combat Air-Land strategy of the United States to assert regional influence and power. The domains of land, air, sea, space, cyber, electronic, and underwater will be competed at different levels in different phases across the domains to overcome and overmatch in any one or more domains. While the U.S. Army, Marines, and to some extent the U.S. Air Force further refined Air-Land precision warfare against non-peer opponents in the Middle East for nearly 17 years, the U.S. Navy had a single near peer threat of China, of which they stayed focused on in developing a much more advanced and robust layered defensive capability, to defeat the Chinese complex integrated air and missile threat, that is deployed and operational today on its ships.

The U.S. Army and the Marines face large gaps in capability and capacity to defend their maneuvering land forces from air threats as well as defending fixed locations of major hubs and U.S. air power projection sites in the Pacific and Europe from cruise missiles. Mobile Short-Range Air Defense (MSHORAD) and Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) are the two priority Army acquisition programs to fill this void and exposed gap. The MSHORAD will look to use the Stryker platform to place a multi-missile interceptor pod along with a 50 Kilowatt Laser. The IFPIC and its Multi Missile Launcher (MML) will ultimately fire the AIM-9X with a mixture of shorter range interceptors designed to defeat cruise missiles and air threats. To fill this immediate gap, the U.S. Army and Congress are beginning to acquire a MSHORAD battalion for each of the Army’s 10 Active divisions and a IFPIC battery for all 15 Patriot Battalions which are predominately deployed around the world today defending US Air Bases.

This short-term capability for land forces is required to enable force projection of the Combat Brigade Teams, Marine landings, and the Enhanced Forward Presence Forces in the Baltic’s and Poland. Even more valuable is the capability to defend air strike projection bases as the near peers can project long distance precision fires beyond current U.S. Fire capability, of which today only air projection can negate to enable the dominance of U.S. Combat Brigade Teams.

The future however depends on the U.S. investment in development and speed in deployment to defeat near peer A2/AD on integrated joint multi domain platforms that break the cost curve with technology breakthroughs and leveraging the entire spectrum from left of launch to right of launch.

It’s time to Boomer Sooner, there is no better place than from the Army Leadership of the FIRES center in Fort Sill, Oaklahoma.

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