The Army Operating Concept

We shared a copy of the Army’s Operating Concept a while back, but never got around to reading it. A slightly updated version came across our desk this week, and we’ve finally started delving into it.

The AOC isn’t the current Army doctrine. What it is is a framework to look to the future and make best guesses as to what future conflict will look like in the near term, and how the Army should be shaped to best suit that.

Spoiler alert- the first parts, the prefaces and first chapters are pure word salad, a cornicopia of buzzwords that would make a shyster business consultant blush.

Somewhat surprisingly though, the second part offers a blunt assessment of our potential adversaries, with only the minimum of jargon. Just as a slight taste, here’s the assessment of Russia:

(2) Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and use of conventional and unconventional land forces in Ukraine suggest that Russia is determined to expand its territory and assert its power on the Eurasian landmass. Russia deployed and integrated a range of diplomatic, information, military, and economic means to conduct what some analysts have described as “non-linear” operations.32 Russia conducted operations to pursue its war aims below the threshold that would elicit a concerted North Atlantic Treaty Organization response. In addition, Russia used cyberspace capabilities and social media to influence perceptions at home and abroad and provide cover for large-scale military operations. While the long-term results of the incursion into Ukraine are not yet certain, Russia demonstrated the centrality of land forces in its effort to assert power and advance its interests in former Soviet states. Without a viable land force capable of opposing the Russian army and its irregular proxies, such adventurism is likely to continue undeterred.33 Russia’s actions highlight the value of land forces to deter conflict as well as special operations and conventional force capability to project national power and exert influence in political contests.

The Obama administration, having done nothing to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, simply pretends the situation doesn’t exist. The Army, however, has to at least acknowledge reality. It’s not suggesting the US should undertake any actions here, just noting both the methodology that Russia has used, and that such a similar “non-linear” approach, having worked once, will likely be used again, and the Army had better start thinking about ways to respond.

Another theme that is showing up is, in as the Navy and Air Force posit AirSea Battle as the key to the pivot to Asia, the Army is attempting to show the centrality of land power (that is, the Army) to any theater of war. First, that’s where the people are. Second, the Army provides capabilities that the other services simply cannot. Intelligence, command and control, interface with other nations command structures, engineering and logistics are all areas that either the Army alone has sufficient capacity, or where supplementing the other services with Army assets is likely a best practice.

My own way of describing the Army’s vision for a future theater is this- the Army sees itself serving as the prime contractor, and then subcontracting out the various warfighting elements to the component services, be it Army, Air Force or Navy.

Still not done reading the AOC, so I’ll probably babble on it some more later.

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2 thoughts on “The Army Operating Concept”

  1. Forgive this Kiwi pogue for talking above his pay grade but you Yankies haven’t really won a war [especially unconventional war] for generations now – Masters at hard power, not so good at the hearts and minds

    Try this

    It involves bringing contingents of allied nations and barbarians living inside them to NZ, training them to build roads and infrastructure [like the Roman Legions] then repatriating them to their home country’s

    Plan is a bit rough and ready and requires some polish – just like me

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