TWICKENHAM, England --- In future warfare, subordinate units isolated from the theater's top brass may have to go against their original orders and rely on a mix of capabilities to defeat an evolving enemy, Army planners say.
That calls for a change in the culture of Army institutions to update tactics, according to Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commander of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, which is tasked with crafting the future requirements of maneuver forces.
"You have to create training environments where a captain, for example, has to choose to do something that he was told not to do, but is consistent with the intent of the expectation of his higher command," Wesley said.
Speaking at the International Armored Vehicles conference Thursday, Wesley described this as "realizing mission command," a strategy that invests more trust in leaders in the field to use multi-domain capabilities.
"When we say mission command, I think in many ways it has become a buzzword that we truly don't understand or we don't employ," he said. "Our armies, and in particularly ours, are drunk on information and dependent on permission."
In his remarks, Wesley outlined other challenges to his center's movement and maneuver functional concept, a set of ideas for maneuvering and fighting within a future operating environment. The concept is slated to be reviewed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in February.
Under this concept, which is being developed simultaneously with the Army Training and Doctrine Command's overall multi-domain operating concept, units would likely rely on an emphasis on cross-domain maneuver.
"This is formation indiscriminate. It's an idea on how brigades fight," Wesley said of the concept. "You won't have multi-domain brigades; you'll have brigades that will have to fight in a multi-domain environment."
In the near future, unit commanders will be called upon to juggle capabilities in the land, air, maritime, cyber and space domains while maneuvering troops in a contested environment.
"What we're struggling with at Fort Benning [in Georgia] is what tools can I give captains and majors to leverage that kind of synchronization?" Wesley asked.
The U.S. Army isn't the only one asking such questions, he told the conference audience of military members and industry partners from around the world.
"As a military profession, it will be indispensable that we understand collectively where we're going," he said.
The general called the movement and maneuver functional concept an azimuth that shows the direction for the U.S. Army and its allies. Further collaboration, he said, will help shape doctrine and allow the defense industry to customize technology to it.
"This is by no means [set] in stone," he said. "With our coalition partners and allies we need to refine what we have here."
When developing ideas and technology, Maj. Gen. Robert White, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said the human capacity of troops should always be at the forefront of discussions.
"No matter what we do and what we make or the concepts that we have, at the end of the day, it's the Soldier that pulls the trigger, that steers the vehicle, and that engages in battle with the enemy," he said Jan. 24 during his speech at the conference.
Capabilities, he suggested, should be tailored to the Soldiers who will use them, not the other way around.
"It's really about building lethality around the Soldier, not building the lethality and serving the Soldier inside of it," White said. "Those solutions that we come up with, in the end, fall on the shoulders of a 19-year-old man or woman … and we're going to enable them to win."
For example, he said, there's room for improvement in communications systems that have become overcomplicated, affecting how the U.S. Army works with its sister services and other nations.
"If we're going to fight together in the future as we are today, we've got to be able to talk," White said.
The reliability of communications systems could be even more urgent in the multi-domain environment, where episodic disruptions in communications may affect dispersed forces.
It's important that the young leaders who may someday fight in multiple domains are empowered to handle such issues, according to Wesley.
"Because you [will] have a very fast and hyperactive battlefield, we must unleash the power of subordinate formations in order to operate," he said.
That will require a significant level of confidence in young leaders not typically seen in today's Army, Wesley said.
"You can't truly trust someone unless you are willing to take a risk," he said. "If you're not willing to take risks as a senior commander, you do not trust. And the only way to get to trust is to employ some risk."