June 15, 2018

What the Interwar Years Say About the US Army’s Newest Force Concept

By Lauren Fish

You fix the roof when it’s sunny, says U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper, pointing to his service’s various efforts to improve doctrine and gear during a relative lull in fighting. The Army has more funds and a clear strategy for new vehicles and equipment, the two-year-old Rapid Capabilities Office, and a brand-new Futures Command. Most interestingly, it has a new operating concept dubbed Multi-Domain Operations.

Intended to advance combined arms concepts into all the domains of 21st-century war, the MDO envisions new ways the services should jointly operate, identifies new battlefield requirements, and responds to possible pitfalls in the current way the Joint Force does business. Even the name — recently changed from “multi-domain battle” — reflects the notion that future conflicts will feature forms of competition far removed from traditional kinetic combat.

As the Army hones its ideas, it should heed lessons from a similar “sunny day” nearly a century ago: the interwar years. Among them:

Technology alone doesn’t solve problems. The French used the interwar years to build the technologically advanced Maginot Line, which the Germans simply drove around in 1940. (Nor did the French anticipate that aircraft would provide cover for maneuver in the place of artillery at the crossing of the Meuse, a costly miscalculation.) Technology matters but so do concepts of operation.

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