You’ve probably heard of it before.
Over the next several decades, the Army will need to prepare for high intensity conflict against similarly armed enemies in urban environments, faced with the possibility of long periods without communication or helicopter support.
But how will they get there?
Over the past year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper have delivered numerous speeches on the future of war and the direction taken by the army.
On Wednesday, they officially released their vision statement conclude what they can predict for the future with how the military will meet these challenges by 2028.
“I compare that, although it’s not as elegant as John F. Kennedy’s vision to send a man into space, land him on the moon, and bring him back safe and sound within 10 years.” Esper told Army Times on Tuesday.
âI think a vision, by its nature, is ambitious, but we are doing things now to plan for it, to prepare for it or to implement it,â Esper said.
The message contains a handful of top priorities. Here are a few that you may soon see in action:
1. More soldiers
The Army is in its second year of increasing its strength and plans to continue this trend over the next several years.
The ideal number would be 500,000 active troops this year’s total calls to 483,500 – with proportional growth in the National Guard and Army Reserve.
So far, the military has been able to meet its strength in the active component, but last fall it lacked about 2% in its reserve mission. Those numbers continue to be insufficient this year, Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands of Army G-1 told the Army Times earlier this year.
Esper and other senior leaders attributed this deficit to the growth of active-duty troops. The past two years have seen a âcall to active serviceâ from reserve troops to bolster the final active strength.
And the reserve component has been popular with soldiers who leave active service but still wish to serve, either voluntarily or because of force-training policies that push them out.
To close the gap, the service is considering a handful of incentives.
“We’re looking at things where, maybe you do three [years] in the active and three in the reserve, âSeamands said in May.
The bonuses, marketing and recruiting strategy could also help orient potential and current soldiers towards the reserve component, Esper said.
âI think we need to look at all of this,â he said. âThere are other ways to do it administratively. For example, maybe the first choice on the next mission. There are a number of things you can do, and commanders have all of these tools at their disposal. “
2. Virtual reality
Simulated training environments aren’t new to the military or even the military, but Esper and Milley’s vision statement sets out a clear marching order for them to be built into every business.
“This training will require a rapid expansion of our synthetic training environments and a more in-depth distribution of simulation capabilities down to the enterprise level to dramatically improve the lethality of soldiers and teams,” the statement said.
That’s not to say simulations would replace time spent in the field or at training facilities, Esper said.
âI was amazed, I went through it. It’s strangely real, âhe said. âAnd that will really give you the opportunity to practice and rehearse teams before you have to go out – not just to fight – but before you have to go out on the pitch. “
âThe exercise of entering and cleaning a room requires four soldiers to determine who is first? How do we signal that we are ready to go? When you go through the door, do you go left or right or straight? And how do you repeat this exercise over and over again? Esper said.
Once you’ve got a handle on that, he added, you can change the variables. What if the second soldier gets shot?
With little more than an empty room, areas of the business could each have their own synthetic training booth.
3. A new battlefield
The military is preparing for a battlefield where its troops are under constant enemy watch and communications are disabled for long periods of time.
The flip side is that the military will have to be even better with this technology.
âCorps brigade units must also have the capacity to conduct sustained land and air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; electronic warfare; and cyber operations to shape the battlefield in all areas, âthe statement said.
Much of this progress will come from Army Futures Command. The plan is to focus on staffing, training and equipping the military by 2022 and then focus on upgraded systems on the ground that are under development.
“This modernization includes the experimentation and development of autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and robotics to make our soldiers more efficient and our units less logistically dependent,” the statement said.
The boost, of course, is that all of these goals depend on predictable funding over the next decade, and no major changes in the demand for troops. If the country goes to war, all bets are off.
âWe always say,â the chef always says, âassuming there is no change in supply or demand,â Esper said. âAssuming the budget floor isn’t pulled from under us. Or, if we were to start deploying a corps every six months, to one or more locations, it would change the demand signal, which would affect our readiness.
Read the full vision statement here.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at the Military Times. It covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other matters affecting the military. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT