Army Strategy Chief Discusses Army Role in National Defense Strategy

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Maj. Gen. Chris McPadden, the US Army’s strategy chief discusses plans for readiness, modernization, reform and partnering with allies during an interview with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the 2018 AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Our AUSA coverage is brought to you by Bell, a Textron Company, Elbit Systems of America, L3 Technologies, Leonardo DRS, and Safran.

Maj. Gen. Chris McPadden, USA

Deputy Chief of Staff for G3, G5, G7

AUSA Annual Meeting

October 2018

Vago Muradian:  Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report.  I’m Vago Muradian here at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Conference and Trade Show in Washington, DC, the number one gathering of U.S. Army leaders from around the world to talk about the service’s future, its strategy, budgets, doctrine, technology and more.  Our coverage here is sponsored by Bell, a Textron company; Elbit Systems of America; L3 Technologies; Leonardo DRS; and SAFRAN.  And we’re honored to have with us Major General Chris McPadden who is the United States Army’s Strategy Chief, or the Deputy Chief of Staff for G3, G5, G7, hike.  Sir, great seeing you.

MG Chris McPadden:  Very nice to meet you, Vago.

Mr. Muradian:  The Army Strategy, you’ve been working on that for a little while.

MG McPadden:  I have.

Mr. Muradian:  You were the Deputy J5 down on the Joint Staff, so you know a thing or two about strategy and looking at hot spots and threats around the world.  Talk to us about what sort of the main themes of this strategic document are, because you guys did the short form pamphlet which is interesting and very to the point; we’ve got the vision from the Chief and the Secretary.  But talk to us about the most important elements of this strategy.

MG McPadden:  We do have a strategy to be ready today, and more lethal tomorrow.  It’s really centered on four lines of effort:  readiness, modernization, reform, and allies and partners.  I can take each of those in turn.

Essentially, readiness is number one.  There is no other number one.  You’ve heard General Milley say that numerous times.  That is our focus in the short term out to 2022 to be fully ready as an Army.

But modernization is very closely tied to that.  We modernize by basically manning, training, equipping, leading, organizing our soldiers focused on a multi-domain operation doctrine and we’re going to essentially enable our soldiers and our units to deploy, fight and win at any time, anywhere against any threat.  The joint combined fight, essentially to fight decisively, we’re going to sustain our ability to conduct irregular warfare and we’re also going to deter threats across the globe as we win decisively.  

The third line of effort is our reform effort.  That really focuses on time, on money and talent management.  So we want to make sure that we leverage every second, every cent, every soldier to best sustain our readiness and also modernize in the future.  The Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Army have been very vectored on reforming to basically make sure that we are ready today and lethal tomorrow.

The fourth is allies and partners.  We have an amazing network of allies and partners across the globe.  As you know, we have roughly 180,000 soldiers, and 140 countries across the globe.  Our network of allies and partners is unparalleled. 

We essentially focus on the idea of interoperability.  Now interoperability is how do we routinely act with our allies and partners coherently, effectively and efficiently to basically accomplish our tactical and operational and strategic objectives?  Our network is only increasing and we work that every day.

So we tie all four of those things together.  We think it’s a very coherent, simple, comprehensive strategy that’s focused on readiness is number one; modernization is modernize as we’re getting ready; reforming; and focusing on our network of allies and partners.

Mr. Muradian:  As the Strategy Chief, what are some of the trends that you’re watching more closely?  Is it artificial intelligence investment?  Is it climate change? 

MG McPadden:  Yeah.

Mr. Muradian:  So what are some of the things that you have been spending most of your bandwidth thinking about, you and your team, and what are the things that we need to be, you know, as you look out there five, ten, twenty years, because you’re one of the people in the force who’s really got to have their head screwed in to really the future about what are the challenges and the threats the nation faces, and land forces face.

MG McPadden:  That’s an excellent question.  When you really look at all the guidance, we have the National Security Strategy, the National Military Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, all have a strategic environment as does the Army Strategy.  We’re looking at the globe, now mid-term, and out into the future.  I’d say it really distills essentially down to those four things that I told you.  Readiness, modernization, reform, and allies and partners.  And it’s really getting at, as you probably know but it’s worth saying, it’s all about multi-domain operations, right?  We had AirLand Battle in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s.  Air, land.  Two domains essentially, right?  But warfare of today and in the future is multi-domain.  That means air, land, sea, cyber, space, electromagnetic spectrum.  So we’ve got to think about all of it collectively in the current, through the POM, and in the out years.  So you really get to essentially concept the capability framework. 

How we think about warfare in the future will affect the way we develop our force and the way that we will fight in the future.  So we’ve got to be ready today, and we’ve got to be more lethal in the future as we focus on a multi-domain operation perspective.

I think you’ll see from a joint perspective, the multi-domain focus, it’s really centered on what we call the 2+3 — Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and DEOs.  And we focus it, we have an idea called global integration which is essentially how do we think about the globe?

For the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the Chief of Staff of the Army, the field is the globe and they have to think about all domains currently, in the mid-term and in the future out-years.  So the strategy really gets at all aspects of that.

Mr. Muradian:  I was talking to a friend of mine downstairs and we were talking about some of the strategic trends.  Right?  Is it AI?  Is it climate?  And what he said is look, the hard part now is that it’s everything.  Right?  So that’s capsulated on what you were roughly talking about.

But one of the challenges is also sort of transmitting the messages across the force, right?   Talk to us a little bit about how you’re going to get this message out from a strategic standpoint to get all arms of the Army aligned to be able to say okay, this is the document, this is why it’s important, this is how we’ve got to be thinking about the future as well.

MG McPadden:  It’s a great question.  The great news is that we’ve been doing it all along.  This isn’t really new.  We’re just codifying it in a coherent, comprehensive strategy.  

Strategic planning really comes down to two things.  Casting a vision and manifesting a vision.  Oftentimes you’ll see where there isn’t actually a vision that has been cast.  This is the casting of the vision.  As the Secretary said yesterday, this is a renaissance.  But it gets to the essential elements, the essence of what we’re trying to do as an enterprise, and it’s very closely tied and nested within the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy.  The Joint Staff, the Joint Force are thinking in the exact same way, and the Army is in lock-step with the Joint Force in thinking about how we’re going to approach our threats both today, through the program and out beyond the program.

So I think, frankly, from seeing all the various forms from a Joint Staff perspective, with respect to the Army service component commands, with respect to the COCOMs, we collectively get it.  We collectively understand what the environment is.

Now it’s how do we get after approaching that environment?  That’s why, I mean if you look at all these documents, they literally distill to readiness, modernization, reform and allies and partners.  That is the essence of where we’re going as a Joint, as an Army Force.  

And now the challenge is to as we’ve cast the vision, I find that strategic planning — the bigger challenge, to be fair, is to manifest the vision.  Collectively getting around this vision and how are we going to execute it?  And I will tell you again in many many forums we understand that.  So what we do is we try to essentially collaborate as much as we possibly can and we use venues, senior leader venues from the lieutenant colonel and colonel level, up to what we have as the OpsDeps, the operational deputies across the Joint Force, up to the four-star level, the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the review of products.

So when you have collaboration against venues of decision-making authorities and it goes all the way up to the Secretary of Defense, what ends up happening is you develop a collective, comprehensive understanding across the Joint Force.  I personally in the past several years have seen that increasingly. 

What that translates to is better and better best military advice because our leaders, we as the folks who put it together, we collectively collaborate and understand these threats better and better.  We’re focused on multi-domain operations so we understand the integration of all the services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines — as well as what it means for all the domains.  I mean all these threats we face are multi-domain, right?  They’re trans-regional.  They’re not just in single regions, they’re across all regions.  They are multi-functional.

So we’ve got to think in all those dimensions simultaneously.  So the venues, the collaboration and the venues enable us to, I call it sets and reps.  The more you work out, the more you understand these things over and over, the more that comprehensive, collective understanding of the threat emerges and our leaders, we become increasingly understanding of the things that we’re facing.  That’s, as General Dempsey said, the intellectual leads the physical.  So the way we think about conducting warfare is going to affect the way we do conduct warfare, and that’s going to affect the way we invest and develop capabilities.

So when you have multi-domain operations.  As you know, it was the Army Operating Concept four years ago.  But as General Townsend even wrote more recently, and General Perkins, about multi-domain battle.  Then we have multi-domain operations.  Right?  Because this is all about the Joint Force.  This is about the Joint Force facing the globe and the threats that we have across the globe.  Then you move those, you take that multi-domain operations and you apply it across the globe.  That’s going to affect the six modernization priorities that we have to best equip, train, man, organize and meet our Army to fit within the Joint Force to accomplish our future missions.

Mr. Muradian:  That’s right, because for example, anti-access area denial isn’t something that’s just a Russia problem or a China problem.  But it also manifests itself with some of the things Iran is doing as well as the North Koreans.

What’s sort of the single thing that keeps you awake at night?  As an Army strategist what are the things, the top couple of things that you just think boy, you know, we’ve got to do a lot more study about that, that and that.

MG McPadden:  I think it’s manifesting our vision.  Manifesting our strategy.  And I think collectively getting our brains around this as a Joint Force.  That’s really, really important.

So it’s one thing for us to cast the vision, and I think we have done that really, really well.  And personally, I think we’re doing very, very well in manifesting it.  But it’s something that it goes beyond in a sense the tenure of leaders.  Right?  This is about the collective force thinking about how we face our threats in the future.  It’s about how are we setting up soldiers in the next generation?  How are we thinking about the threats they’re going to face and while we’re being best stewards of everything we’re doing now to enable our readiness today and our lethality in the future.

Mr. Muradian:  And so when you mean manifest it, it’s also get it to — by the way, how are you interacting with the Futures Command on this?  Is there a — 

MG McPadden:  Completely integrated.  Our leaders are so integrated across the Army, it is amazing.  From what I see.  And I’m not just saying that.  Our leaders collectively get it.  They understand it.  This strategy wasn’t just a one-off strategy.  This is the Army’s strategy.  We own this.  We’re one of the greatest teams on the planet and we aim to remain, you know, it’s not a birth right, so we’ve got to act on it and our leaders are determined, resolved, to get after it and continue to stay after it just like we have for decades, for generations.  And this is just really about setting up the next generation to ensure that we’re ready today and lethal tomorrow.

Mr. Muradian:  Now you mentioned team.  You’re a proud graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.  Go Army.  How do you feel, the big game, how do you feel overall for this season?  I saw the new superintendent of the Military Academy.  He thinks a 10-2 season is what you guys are going to have, and you’re going to win against Navy?

MG McPadden:  Why not?  Of course.  Do it again.  That’s what I think.  Go Army.

Mr. Muradian:  Go Army and?

MG McPadden:  Beat Navy.

Mr. Muradian:  There you go.

Chris McPadden, Major General, Chief of Army Strategy.  Sir, it was a pleasure.  Best of luck, and may the best team win in December.

MG McPadden:  Absolutely.  Thank you, Vago.  Appreciate your time.

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