The Army released its new multi-domain operations plan on Thursday focused on driving strategic formations to better align with growing threats from Russia and China, while urging a collective effort across the services to prepare for competition at levels “below armed conflict.”

Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), told reporters the new Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) Concept 1.5 builds on last year’s Multi-Domain Battle document with a more specific focus on the next-generation warfare threats posed by peer competitors and the joint tasks required to better set the Army up to transition from competition to potential conflict through 2028.

Official Photo of Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Official Photo of Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

“It’s a recognition that we’re in competition all the time, whether we’re in conflict or not,” Townsend said. “Just look at what’s unfolded in the world in the last three to four years. Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, Eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, South China Sea, I could go on. That political competition, economic competition, it’s not just military competition. Our adversaries are competing with whole-of-government resources and a whole-of-government approach.”

Army leaders have focused on the new plan on instilling multi-domain tactics across its formation to meet peer competitors ongoing efforts to employ anti-access and area denial systems and create increasingly competitive environments.

“The Joint Force has not kept pace with these developments,” officials wrote in the document.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, describes MDO 1.5 as the outline for the Army to address Russia and China’s overt efforts at integrating next-gen technologies within their respective military strategies.

“Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics are driving a fundamental change in the character of war. As these technologies mature and their military applications become more clear, the impacts have the potential to revolutionize battlefields unlike anything since the integration of machine guns, tanks, and aviation which began the era of combined arms warfare,” Milley wrote in the document.

Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, Army Capabilities Integration Center’s (ARCIC) director of concept development, said as the service’s looks to modernize its capabilities, leadership must find ways to ensure adversaries’ are aware of the Army’s increased strategic capacity.

“We need to do a better job of demonstrating capability, demonstrating that we can defeat components of a threat’s system,” Odom said. “The concept is calling for a much more active role in that. There may be political reasons that they can’t do that in places like the Europe or Pacific. But there’s nothing that prevents in many cases from doing it in the United States and making it visible to our adversaries.”

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, director of ARCIC, pointed to the new plan’s emphasis on conducting  more experimentation and wargaming to meet multi-domain operational goals and bridge cross-service efforts.

“A year ago this was more of a hypothesis. Because of the wargames and experimentation, we see improvements in the output and the performance. So that’s why it’s a legitimate concept now,” Wesley said.

Wesley highlighted that this year’s Joint Warfighting Assessment was conducted in Europe and next year’s will be handled by Pacific Command, allowing new multi-domain concepts to be tested in two theaters.

The ongoing result from increasing exercises and testing emerging technologies in new formations is to ensure joint forces are able to compete in levels “below armed conflict” and meet a potential swift transition to conflict, according to the new document.

“This effort of escalate to de-escalate. They will keep pushing the envelope and throttle back down right when it gets to a point that it becomes a crisis,” Wesley said. “In order to be agile to transition to conflict, you’ve got to compete in that space. You can’t wait till the red line is crossed in order to conduct operations that enable your conflict.”

Futures Command will lead the effort over the next year to complete MDO 2.0, with the goal of having at least one other service sign off on the document or offer a full commitment to the plan’s joint operational plans, according to Townsend.