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Defense leaders: Interoperability vital to strategic land power

February 25, 2013

By John Whipple, Army Capabilities Integration Center

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Senior U.S. Army and Marine Corps leaders joined prominent members of academia and defense think tanks to discuss the vital role of land power at the 2013 Association of the United States Army's 2013 Winter Symposium and Exposition.

The distinguished panel brought unique perspectives on past lessons learned and current priorities, but one theme was common among all participants: land power will remain indispensible in meeting future wartime objectives, and interoperability among joint and coalition partners must continue to be a priority as America looks ahead to its 'next first battle.'

The panel was chaired by Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's deputy commanding general of Futures and director of U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, who shared his own insights on strategic land power in a presentation earlier in the day. During his presentation, Walker explained that strategic land power is simply the application of land power to achieve strategic objectives, and that it requires achieving lasting influence on the human domain.

During the panel discussion, he emphasized that this is a task the Army cannot achieve on its own.

'One of the things that we clearly learned over the last dozen years,' Walker said, 'was we never want to go backward with regard to interoperability … with conventional forces and special operations forces.' Walker shared examples of how conventional and special operations forces continue to strengthen their connections through updated training, education and in formal military doctrine.

Walker also discussed the Army's emergent use of regionally aligned forces and its role in strategic land power.

'When we talk about the construct of [prevent, shape, win], by physically being [together] through the regionally aligned concept, we can develop partnerships where they don't currently exist. … That is a form of interoperability we need to deliberately work at proactively.'

Panel member Kalev Sepp, from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, took time to dispute what he said is a flawed perspective that land power is merely an early form of war -- a first generation of warfare that has been overcome by subsequent domains such as sea, air, space and cyber.

'In fact,' he noted, 'land power is foundational to all of these. While all of these powers are mutually dependent … land power is indispensible in the achievement of wartime objectives, particularly in this concept of the human domain.'

Nathan Freier, another panel member and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, looked back at the past Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, to address lessons learned regarding strategic land power.

'One of the real gaps in the 2010 QDR was that it chartered the AirSea battle effort … but senior defense leaders did not ask the Army, Marines and [Special Operations forces] to do the same thing.' He added that he applauds the efforts in these communities do just that by codifying lessons on land power over the past decade of war.

Timothy Bonds, director of the RAND Arroyo Center, also shared his views on the Army's focus on the human domain.

'One of the things I see in the [Army chief of staff's] concept of regionally aligned forces and the global mission forces … is a seamless continuum of the ability of ground forces as part of a joint combined force to influence things in the theater … the culture, the people, the issues. That's a space that the Army, as part of a joint combined force, is increasingly being asked to fill.'

Together with the Marines and Special Operations, the Army will continue to fill this space, as the triad of land forces focuses on the intimate relationship between the human domain and accomplishing the nation's strategic objectives.'

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