Deep Future: 2025 & Beyond | March-April 2014 Edition

The Fires Conference is upon us, and as both the theme of the conference and this publication would imply, we are dedicated to shaping our Fires Force through the year 2025 and beyond. The staff, from the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, Joint and Combined Integration Directorate, to the FCoE G3 is actively focused on providing a first-class conference experience. By gathering the best and brightest within the Fires profession, we can plot our trajectory for the coming decades, posturing our armed forces with the overmatch needed to secure our nation. Whether you attend in person or through Defense Connect Online, your time will be well spent and an investment in the future of the Fires Force.

While this year’s theme, “The Deep Future of Fires,” may provide a little drama and a lot of mystery, it forces us to consider a solid plan to get through the year 2025 and beyond. Even now we are drawing down forces, while simultaneously being charged with producing a future Army with equal or greater capabilities to what they possess today. Our requirement for a credible and capable force to truly prevent, shape and win conflicts in the years to come will not diminish. While there are too many variables beyond our control to get the future force perfect, we must strive not to get it completely wrong and lose the edge we possess to future adversaries. Our conference provides a significant step in avoiding this outcome and meeting anticipated requirements.

At stake is our ability to remain operationally decisive along our present trajectory. At our adversaries’ current state of technological advance and our own rate of systems improvement, trends show our enemies could eventually surpass us in critical areas. This raises the concern that without innovation, our evolutionary approach will cause us to operate at a disadvantage within anticipated scenarios. To explore these concerns, the Army created a specific scenario for Unified Quest 2013: Deep Future Wargame Exercise, providing an opportunity to view two outcomes for a scenario set in the year 2030. The scenarios involved the U.S. homeland being attacked with chemical weapons proliferated by ‘non-state actors’ working within a land-locked state in the midst of civil war and examined the outcomes of the Army’s response to this contingency.

One outcome tested how the Army would perform its mission under conditions of steady-state, evolutionary improvements to our current systems with no ‘game-changer’ technologies fielded to the force. The second evaluated the same inputs but with advanced technologies (e.g., directed energy, vertical take-off and landing craft, and shallow-draft high speed vessels) fielded within the force that potentially shifted the advantages back to the U.S. forces’ side. The two outcomes were dramatically different.

From a strategic standpoint, the course of action applying evolutionary modernization failed the mission. The rogue regime stayed in power, weapons of mass destruction were lost, and their scientists capable of manufacturing them remained unaccounted for—primarily due to lack of operational agility. The outcome shifted, however, under conditions where a more revolutionary approach to modernization was applied. An Army employing game-changing technology achieved both strategic and operational goals (all WMD either secured or fixed) primarily by achieving greater operational surprise using distributed maneuver and massing fires at decisive points. Both outcomes incurred risk, with the evolutionary approach demonstrat-ing risk to the strategic mission and the innovative approach demonstrating tactical risk to isolated elements and sustainment.

This exercise fueled discussions at the November 2013, Senior Leader Seminar that included how to get the Army to become operationally decisive, arriving to the fight with ‘speed and mass that matter.’ Two key takeaways for the Fires warfighting function from these discussions were that mass still matters, though technology does allow a smaller force to ‘punch above its weight,’ and air and ground must be integrated with one common picture that a joint and ground integration center provides. Above all, it stressed the need to break out of our current paradigm of evolutionary improvement of our Fires systems despite the challenges of looming budget reductions.

It will be through a collaborative thought process at the Fires Conference that we begin to truly tackle the task of shaping our Fires Force. In an austere environment the most valuable and cost-effective resource is an idea that could change the way we do business. A quote often attributed to Winston Churchill, “gentlemen, we have run out of money. Now we must think.” Though the quote was coined prior to World War II, the statement could just as easily emanate from the halls of the Fires Center or the Pentagon today. This means that pooling our intellectual resources and sharing ideas has got to be high on the priority list in order for the Fires Force to maintain superiority. Thinking is what we intend, as you’ll see from this issue.

The 2014 Fires Conference will serve as the forum to bring together those with imagination and knowledge within the Fires community to discuss the future of fire power and manning the Fires Force. We will have members of the science and technology community discuss the possibilities associated with a revolutionary approach to modernization. Senior military leaders, including Fires, maneuver and joint, will have discussions that shape the future of Fires and our ability to support strategic land power. Registration for the conference will open soon, but begin preparing now to either attend in person if you receive an invitation or log in through DCO. We look forward to seeing and hearing from everyone on this critical issue.

Fires Strong!

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