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News | June 2, 2020

Army Aims to Further Refine MDO with Indo-Pacific Partners

By Sean Kimmons Army News Service

The Army looks to expand the use of its Multi-Domain Task Force across the Indo-Pacific region this year to test future warfighting capabilities and make it more rapidly deployable.

As part of a U.S. Army Pacific-led pilot, the task force is being built to be mobile with a capable headquarters and robust communications that can quickly link it in with joint assets and partners in the region, said Lt. Gen. Randy George, commander of I Corps.

“We want to build something that can take advantage of what we have for strategic movement, whether it’s by airlift or by sea to maneuver it,” he said May 20 during the virtual Indo-Pacific Landpower Conference 2020.

In the future, he added, a task force could be based at a forward location in the region, where, according to the National Defense Strategy, China, North Korea and non-state actors still pose a threat.

“Key terrain will always be a critical aspect and we must combine efforts to protect sovereignty, international law and the rules-based order,” he said.

The task force includes elements from a fires brigade and an I2CEWS detachment, which is testing intelligence, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare and space assets to counter enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities.

Last year, the task force exercised with similar multi-domain units from Japan and Australia, as it prepares to become a permanent task force at Washington's Joint Base Lewis-McChord this fall.

The Army plans to establish a second stand-alone MDTF in Europe next year, and a third task force will stand up in the Pacific in 2022, I Corps leaders have previously said.

Leaders envision the specialized units to be about 500 personnel, including troops from other services.

One of the challenges the pilot currently faces is how to quickly work with sensors and shooters from all the services to present multiple dilemmas to an adversary.

“We’re often interdependent,” George said, “but we’re going to have to become integrated to reach our full potential for a sensor-shooter agnostic force.”

With such an all-inclusive unit, the general said he initially expects there to be friction among other assets on how it can deliver its array of capabilities.

“We expect to learn through our exercises and partnerships where we need to have immediate access to the right authorities to have the desired effect,” he said.

In those exercises, he said, U.S. and foreign militaries must share their successes and failures in executing multi-domain operations in order to move forward together.

The task force trained last year with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, which is developing similar concepts and capabilities called Cross-Domain Operations, during the Orient Shield exercise.

For the first time, Orient Shield was also linked with Cyber Blitz, an annual experiment hosted by Army Cyber Command from New Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst that informs Army leaders how to execute full-spectrum information warfare operations.

“These accomplishments in synchronizing cross-domain warfighting will contribute to not only strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, but also serve as a significant effort toward peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Maj. Gen. Masayoshi Arai, director general of policy and programs for the JGSDF.

Also last year in the Talisman Saber exercise, the MDTF was assigned to the Australian Army’s 1st Division, which oversees the country’s Deployable Joint Force Headquarters that includes ground, sea and air forces.

While the deployable headquarters has an information warfare unit that can demonstrate MDO effects, its commander, Maj. Gen. Jake Ellwood, believes they will eventually create a unit similar to the U.S. Army task force to bolster its efforts.

“If we leave an adversary wondering where our key strengths and vulnerabilities lie,” he said, “the vast nature of these possibilities will leave them trying to defend everywhere, which, as we know, ends up being absolutely nowhere.”

He also noted that MDO does not have to be constrained to competition, but it can also help in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief by synchronizing community information to ensure support is fully maximized as well as dispel any misinformation.

Ultimately, though, leaders anticipate the multi-domain efforts, along with strong partnerships, will deter potential adversaries.

“Our exercises serve not as provocations, but allow us to deter conflict,” said Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of USARPAC. “The intent is to preserve sovereignty in a free and open Indo-Pacific, not to force Indo-Pacific nations to make difficult economic or diplomatic choices.”