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The Army Takes an Extended View to 2040

The service is beginning to define longer-term needs and concepts to defend the United States in a near-peer environment.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth opens the annual AUSA conference.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth opens the annual Association of the United States Army conference on Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C.

For the past several years, the U.S. Army has been preparing for what its warfighting approach will be in 2030. Army leaders see fiscal year 2023 as a seminal year in which the service will roll out 24 key technologies to meet that approach as part of its multi-year modernization effort. At the same time, the service is beginning to look further into the future, with leaders considering the warfighting picture through 2040, said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, speaking October 10 at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

“The Army more broadly does need to look ahead to 2040 and needs to be looking at what are the next kinds of operating concepts that we need, and what are the new kinds of technologies that we need,” Wormuth said. “And that's where I think Army Futures Command can play a really important role.”

Lt. Gen. Dennis Scott McKean, USA, director, Futures and Concepts Center, Army Futures Command and the command’s deputy commanding general, and Brig. Gen. Stephanie Ahern, USA, director of Concepts, Futures and Concepts Center, were charged with investigating the long-term operational picture. Wormuth, however, has pushed that priority forward, spurring on Gen. James Rainey, USA, who is six days into his new role as the leader of roughly four-year-old Army Futures Command.

“We've now asked Gen. Rainey to really accelerate that and simultaneously look at delivering 2030 and looking ahead to 2040,” Wormuth shared.

The service also will be turning to universities to help define that longer-term technology picture, the secretary continued.

“Academia, they're doing a lot of really interesting research and the Army Research Lab plays a big role in that,” she noted. “And the Futures Command is doing a lot to have partnerships with academia so that we can really leverage the cutting edge that's coming out of academia. As we are looking ahead to 2040 and trying to figure out what are the next-generation capabilities, that’s a big place where we can use [research and development] to, for example, help us understand that and get some new context as we start looking at some new potential technologies and capabilities.”

That innovation role ends any speculation as to the command’s own future existence past the fielding of its six 2030 modernization priorities, which are long-range precision fires, the next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a modern Army network, air and missile defense and increased soldier lethality.

“There's plenty of work for Army Futures Command for years to come,” Wormuth said. “I'm confident that the Army is on the right track to realize our vision for the Army of 2030 and enable our soldiers, families and civilians to excel and thrive.”

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Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth (l), speaks to reporters with the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville (c) and the Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Grinston (r), during a press conference at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 10.
Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth (l), speaks to reporters with the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville (c) and the Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Grinston (r), during a press conference at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 10.

Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February, the Army has “answered the President's call” to reassure NATO allies and to help Ukraine defend itself. The new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, USA, assumed leadership of Allied Command Operations in Mons, Belgium, in July, and has been doing “tremendous work,” Wormuth noted.

The Army’s activities in Europe have increased since the war, with the 1st Infantry Division and other units assisting Latvia to improve readiness, lethality, modernization, interoperability and integration of joint fires in a multinational environment.

“I heard about the valuable training they are conducting with Latvian forces,” Wormuth stated. Moreover, U.S. soldiers from the forward-deployed Security Force Assistance Brigade have been “doing a phenomenal job” in Europe, deploying advisory teams on short notice to Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

“They are the tip of the spear security cooperation, and their efforts are paying significant dividends along NATO's eastern and southern flanks,” the secretary offered. Aside from the large contingent of warfighters in Germany—including special forces—additional soldiers are in Lithuania and Poland—where the 101st Airborne Division is receiving equipment “from all over Europe and getting it into the hands of our Ukrainian partners who so urgently need it.”

Wormuth insists the Army has not taken its sights off building partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region through multiple exercises. “We will stay busy in that region because China is our pacing challenge,” she emphasized. “We must strengthen deterrence in the Pacific by building out our logistics and sustainment support over the region's vast distances and by demonstrating what ready combat-credible Army forces can do, working in concert with our allies and partners.”

Wormuth emphasized that to succeed on the future battlefield and dominate the land domain, the Army must do six basic things well:

  • See and sense more, farther and more persistently at every echelon than the nation's enemies.
  • Concentrate highly lethal, low-signature combat forces rapidly from dispersed locations to overwhelm adversaries at a time and place of the Army’s choosing.
  • Win the fires fight by delivering precision, longer-range fires as part of the joint force to strike deep targets and enemy forces.
  • Protect its own forces from air missile and drone attacks.
  • Reliably and rapidly communicate and share data within the Army, other military services and coalition partners.
  • Sustain our fighting across contested terrain for both short, sharp operations, as well as protracted conflicts.

The secretary noted that the Army's newly released doctrine, Field Manual, version 3.0, elaborates on six main ideas. “[It] will reshape the way we organize, develop, train, conduct exercises and build out our formations to realize this vision and build the Army of 2030,” she said. “By consolidating fires, engineer and military intelligence at the division level, we will maximize the divisions’ ability to shape the fight and enable brigades to close with and defeat enemy threats. At the corps level, we will provide the additional personnel and organizations necessary to fully converge effects across all domains. Our corps will be joint task force certified, capable of commanding and controlling joint and multinational formations.”

Lastly, she mentioned that Congress’ failure to pass a new budget before the start of the fiscal year would have some programs slipping their schedules, and that naturally, a protracted continuing resolution would have more of an impact.

“The Army exists to fight and win the nation's wars,” she stressed. “We cannot lose sight of that fundamental purpose and make sure we remain the dominant land force on the battlefield in 2030. The Army is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation that will position the Army to deter and defeat future threats. ... The Army is shifting its organizational focus to larger formations more capable of integrating with our sister services and our allies and partners around the globe.”