Stacie Pettyjohn explains the concept of multi-domain operations as part of a panel on “Technology as a Battlefield Game Changer” at the 2018 Roberta Wohlstetter Forum on National Security.
The Chinese and the Russians have both have developed different but sophisticated anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems that can strike U.S. forces at range and potentially prevent them from building up combat power in the region, closing in on them, and defeating them in a close fight. Pettyjohn discusses the idea of multi-domain operations as a way to penetrate these A2/AD networks and to deter or defeat aggression.
“Multi-domain” is the buzzword right now in the Pentagon, and there are a number of different initiatives out there, so I'm going to kind of identify what I see as the heart of these different efforts.
But why is it on a panel about technology? It's on a panel about technology because it's in response to the modernization of the Chinese and the Russian militaries and the fact that the U.S. military fears that right now, if it had to fight Russia or China, that it might lose. The Chinese and the Russians have both developed different, but sophisticated, anti-access/area denial systems that can strike U.S. forces at range and potentially prevent them from building up combat power in the region and closing in on them and defeating them in a close fight.
So, in an effort to be able to penetrate these A2/AD networks and to defeat the Russians or the Chinese or hopefully, more importantly, deter them so that we never end up in a war with them, you have this idea of multi-domain operations. This is the idea that multi-domain battle has three core components as identified by the Army. It's calibrated force posture, resilient formations, and converging capabilities to create windows of advantage to enable maneuver. And it's really the last one that I think is the heart of what they're talking about and what is most similar to what you hear about multi-domain command and control in the Air Force or multi-domain operations as air combat command is talking about it.
So what I think this means, basically, is that the U.S. military thinks the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and that right now the way that we fight is suboptimal, and that we need to integrate more non-kinetic effects in the form of, say, cyber and space and better integrate our capabilities instead of fighting within our domain or our service stovepipes.