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The Vast Indo-Pacific Ocean Region Needs an Army

Land forces are the cornerstone for the U.S. Army Pacific.
Gen. Charles A. Flynn, USA, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, describes Army challenges in the vast region at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Tony Grillo photo

Gen. Charles A. Flynn, USA, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, describes Army challenges in the vast region at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Tony Grillo photo

The world’s largest ocean, surrounded by dozens of countries, faces threats that ultimately will be resolved by land forces. And these land forces face considerable challenges in which solutions may be defined by technology.

This menu of challenges was described by the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, USA, gave a ground-based perspective to keynote address members on the second day of TechNet Indo-Pacific, being held in Honolulu April 11-13. With its theme of “From Data to Dominance,” the event emphasized the importance of digital operations in the highly dynamic and challenging Indo-Pacific region, and Gen. Flynn offered a blunt assessment of those challenges.

“The geostrategic weight of the globe and the activities on the globe are concentrated in Asia,” he stated. “This is the most consequential theater at the most consequential time.” The Communist Party of China remains the primary challenge in the Indo-Pacific region, he added.

Even the Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting the Indo-Pacific region, and it could have significant consequences. “Taiwan is watching, and so is China,” the general allowed. “The environment we’re in right now is absolutely dangerous. It is moving.”

With these issues, Gen. Flynn did not offer an optimistic view of the near future. “2022 is going to be a very eventful year,” he predicted.” But 2023, 2024 and 2025 are very concerning. Xi’s people’s congress is concerning,” he said, referring to the Chinese congress at which President Xi is expected to consolidate his power.

And conflict is likely to change, especially with the Ukraine war. “The next fight is going to be very unpredictable, very violent, very human and very long,” he warned.

The general raised the issue of why an Army is important for a region defined by a large ocean, pointing out that people live on land and wars often are decided by land conquest. “Land power is enormously important in this region,” he emphasized.

And that land force needs land assets in the communications realm. The space and aerial arenas currently have the main communications capabilities, but the Army needs work in the terrestrial area, he said. He cited cables and downlink terminals that can be secured. “They do not depend on the weather on top of them,” he stated. “We need the terrestrial layer.”

Gen. Flynn emphasized the importance of headquarters, noting that when cuts eliminate headquarters, they also remove vital command and control, which is largely hosted there.

The U.S. Army Pacific has its Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) in Hawaii and Alaska for training troops in the conditions under which they are likely to fight. “They do not look like Louisiana,” the general said, pointing out that jungles and frozen terrain are potential conflict climes.

And he directed remarks to industry. “We need your help innovating matching industry and the military technology solutions. In some respect, we have to catch you and you have to catch us.”