Delivering the Army of 2030
The U.S. Army is transforming how it prepares to fight and win the nation’s wars. Senior Army leaders developed fresh concepts and logic to guide the Army’s most significant transformation in the past 40 years to ensure the service retains the capability to defeat current and future adversaries. The Army plans to do this by maintaining an advantage in speed of decision-making, an ability to create a shared understanding of the battlefield, and an overmatch in lethality in time and space. Army leaders bear a moral obligation to ensure our Army, as part of the joint force, is ready to fight and win the nation’s wars now and in the future.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth charged Army leaders to establish a sustainable strategic path to transform from a counter-insurgency–optimized force toward a force prepared for the challenges of any major power conflict. Unveiled last fall as the organizing theme of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting, Army 2030 is the service’s deliberate, budget-informed, multiyear plan that prioritizes people and balances maintaining warfighting readiness with the need to adapt our equipment, organization, and training to meet an evolving threat by major competitors. We believe the Army must adjust the way it is organized to fight to meet the challenges of the future battlefield. The experience of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan led the Army to favor building small units, capable of operating independently from their parent organizations in a counter-insurgency environment.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine provides the U.S. Army an ongoing opportunity to study how technology changes the battlefield and the enduring challenges of state-on-state conflict. The Army will shift to a model that empowers theater armies and corps to work with our sister services, allies, and partners to converge fires, leverage nonlethal effects, and deliver logistics support. Divisions must be able to provide intelligence, deep fires, and logistics to ensure the survivability and dominance of brigade combat teams on future battlefields.
Strategic Imperative for Change
The Army 2030 plan follows the priorities provided in the 2022 National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which identified China as the Defense Department’s pacing challenge and Russia as an acute threat, and maintained North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations as persistent threats. The document also notes that the character of war has changed. It cites the early examples found in Russian operations in Georgia, Moscow’s follow-on invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the current war in Ukraine. Army leaders also study China’s military reforms. The Chinese Communist Party has continued to invest in capabilities to deny others’ aerial and maritime freedom of access to littoral areas in the islands that ring China. Our understanding of future warfare is further informed by years of experiments, studies, and wargames.
Rather than locking in requirements early and following a long development process that may be outmatched by competitors, Army leaders are adjusting our procurement process to adapt to the rapid pace of technological innovations.
As an example, mid-tier acquisition authority allowed the Army to accelerate the delivery of the Next Generation Squad Weapons system by years, delivering greatly improved capabilities over current systems. The war in Ukraine has provided an opportunity to make several observations on the character of warfare and the implications of rapid technological adaptation. Based on what we’ve seen in Ukraine, the Army has greatly accelerated the procurement and integration of new capabilities such as lethal unmanned systems known as loitering munitions. When combined with tough, realistic training, continued leader development, and organizational modifications, new materiel solutions can increase the lethality and survivability of our formations. The Army also has the support of Congress to assess various acquisition pathways/authorities using a “buy, try, modify/decide” methodology to rapidly target existing industry solutions while continuing to refine requirements for enduring capabilities.
Achieving the Army of 2030’s goals also requires implementing significant organizational and doctrinal innovations and improving professional military education and training so our people have the skills and knowledge required to win multidomain conflicts. As the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville has noted, “This bold transformation will provide the Joint Force with the range, speed, and convergence of cutting edge technologies that will be needed to provide future decision dominance and overmatch required to win the next fight.”
Adapting to the Changing Character of War
The governments in Russia and China are increasingly challenging the existing rules of the international order. To retain a military advantage, the U.S. Army must address the threat they and other adversaries pose across a wide range of challenges. First, technology is changing the scale, speed, and transparency of the battlefield. Sensors will saturate the future battlefield, rendering challenges for any force to avoid detection or achieve surprise. Ubiquitous and cheap sensors — cell phones, commercial drones, and increasingly accessible sophisticated space-based assets — are becoming available to a wider range of actors. A military force able to immediately link these sensors to extended-range weapons capable of precisely hitting moving targets will have a distinct advantage over any adversary. To counter this threat, both sides will need to employ electronic warfare and target space-based assets to disable sensors or affect the ability of distributed forces to coordinate action. Future military forces can expect to face swarms of unmanned aerial systems, extended-range rockets, maneuvering warheads, and hypersonic missiles that will force it to disperse across the battlespace, while simultaneously confronting ground forces by using technology that increases the lethality of these small teams of soldiers and vehicles.
The changing character of warfare also means the U.S. homeland will no longer be a sanctuary. Cyberattacks on networks and critical infrastructure combined with mis- and disinformation campaigns pose a significant nonkinetic threat in any future conflict. These campaigns will target the U.S. population, aiming to manipulate the American people, sow discord, stall political decisions, and disrupt or delay our ability to mobilize and deploy forces. Additionally, China and Russia can strike the homeland from air and maritime weapons with long-range missiles and may strike through sabotage by operatives within the United States. While we assess our adversaries will only kinetically strike our homeland if they perceive an existential threat to their regime, the fact that they possess the ability to directly attack the United States requires us to factor that into our planning considerations.
How the Army of 2030 Will Fight
For the U.S. military to maintain dominance on the future battlefield, the Army is embracing comprehensive change affecting how we recruit, retain, train, and organize for war. The power of this transformation resides in how all of the pieces work together to deliver a decisive advantage now and into the future. Last fall, the Army published Field Manual 3-0, Operations, transitioning multidomain operations from concept to doctrine. This doctrine is an evolution of multiple previous concepts, including Air-Land Battle, full spectrum operations, and unified land action. It also encompasses lessons learned from over two decades of counter-insurgency and observations of more recent military operations, reflecting the changing character of war and China as the pacing challenge. Multidomain operations require commanders to synchronize effects from land, air, sea, space, and cyber to defeat an adversary in concert with our allies and partners as part of the joint force. The greatest distinction between the United States and China or Russia is this strong and resilient network of willing and reliable allies and partners that the United States, especially the Army, has built and maintained over decades.
The most important factor to winning on the future battlefield is not a new piece of equipment or concept, but our people: the highly skilled soldiers, leaders, and commanders who create cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined, and fit to fight and win. Experienced and well-trained soldiers and leaders identify opportunities and act independently to achieve the overall intent without specific orders accelerating the speed of decision-making and creating overmatch at multiple levels. The ability to recruit and develop the best performing soldiers and leaders at scale and echelon is the U.S. Army’s most significant asymmetric advantage.
Furthermore, Army leaders are professionally committed to providing our nation’s sons and daughters with the equipment necessary to prevail. With its technological investments, the Army seeks to maintain a dominant advantage that saves lives by deterring aggression and, if necessary, defeating adversaries in conflict as rapidly as possible. Finally, to maximize the effect of our new doctrine, new equipment, and existing talent, the Army must relook how it organizes to fight by echelon.
Organizing to Fight in Large-Scale Combat Operations
For the better part of two decades, the brigade combat team was the U.S. Army’s primary fighting formation at the tactical level. This shift sustained the rotational mission requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we have observed combat in Ukraine and multiple simulated large-scale exercises, successful operations require the skills, experience, and capacity found at the higher echelons of theater army, corps, and divisions. Army 2030 prioritizes investments across echelons that will deliver battlefield and theater overmatch.
Theater armies play essential roles in both competition and conflict. Theater armies plan and execute active campaigning in support of combatant commander priorities with exercises, bilateral engagements, and forward-positioning capabilities to deter aggression. Large-scale combat with either China or Russia would require multiple corps of ground forces from many nations, and we must reinvest to expand the capacity of our Army service component commands from an economy of force echelon to a warfighting headquarters. U.S. Army-Pacific and U.S. Army-Europe/Africa must have the capacity to synchronize effective campaigning and be prepared to lead not only Army forces, but also formations drawn from our sister services, allies, and partners in conflict.
To enable a theater army’s increased responsibilities, the Army is investing in theater-controlled organizations like the multidomain task force, security force assistance brigade, theater fires command/element, theater strike effects group, theater information advantage element, and theater military intelligence brigade. Multidomain task forces are purpose-built formations capable of coordinating and integrating cyberspace, electromagnetic activities, and space capabilities with long-range surface fires to deny enemy commanders the ability to prohibit friendly forces from operating in any land, air, or sea area. Security force assistance brigades develop the capabilities of our foreign partners through advising and strengthening relationships. Theater fires commands or theater fires elements provide theater commanders with the dedicated command and control capability to develop targets and coordinate assigned and joint-provided fires capabilities. Theater strike effects groups synchronize task-organized ground-based space and high-altitude forces, while theater information advantage elements coordinate the information advantage capabilities across the theater. Finally, theater military intelligence brigades provide indications and warnings and multidisciplined intelligence to these and other theater formations and the joint force. Adding these capabilities to theater armies ensures combatant commanders have the necessary tools to synchronize ground force capabilities with the joint force to ensure continued dominance and deterrence over the growing Chinese and Russian threats.
With the theater focused on integrating the theater joint fight, the joint task force–certified Army corps will be charged with the responsibility to converge capabilities from all domains in support of the theater operational objectives. Corps are the Army’s primary echelon for synchronizing and delivering multidomain effects. A corps staff must synthesize the vast amount of data received from land, air, the electronic spectrum, and space sensors to create a shared visualization of the complex battlefield and then set conditions for divisions to dominate the close fight. Corps commanders bear responsibility for shaping the deep battle by synchronizing the delivery of long-range fires like missiles, aircraft, and unmanned vehicles with cyber, space, or information operations to disrupt an adversary’s operational level of operations. A key enabler for the corps is the Army’s contribution to the objectives of joint all-domain command and control. The unified network and interoperable command and control systems provide a corps with the ability to integrate sister services, allies, and partners into the “sensor, to shooter, to sustainer” concept at the heart of multidomain operations. Joint all-domain command and control principles will also help counter adversary attempts to disrupt our command and control in space or cyberspace. Army investments in corps headquarters’ capabilities enable command of joint and multinational forces in support of the theater army and combatant commander.
Army 2030 divisions serve as the primary tactical formation on the future battlefield because of their ability to synchronize maneuver with effects to place brigade combat teams in a position of advantage. Delivering the enabling capabilities to the division level allows these commanders to allocate the weight of the main effort and shift quickly to support brigade combat team commanders in the close fight. These commanders are therefore freed to concentrate on maneuvering their forces, offloading the more complex allocation and coordination challenges to division commanders who retain the staff and connectivity to connect sensors, shooters, and sustainers, allowing them to visualize and act faster than an enemy despite the complexity of large-scale combat operations. For example, reinforcing division artillery commanders with more capabilities will better enable the division to mass fires at a decisive point or exploit an emerging adversary vulnerability. Division air defense battalions allow division commanders to place limited air defense capability where most needed. Division-level engineers, particularly in armored formations, will be far more capable of executing complicated contested river crossing and breaching operations. Consolidating enablers at the division level also improves the training, readiness, and employment oversight of unique skillsets and equipment for engineers, cyber, intelligence, electronic warfare, and artillery soldiers.
Army 2030 retains the brigade combat team formation’s advantages in lethality and speed of decision-making while reducing its size to emphasize strategic mobility, tactical maneuverability, and survivability through dispersion across the battlefield. Current brigade combat team commanders lack the capabilities to serve as the primary tactical unit on a battlefield dominated by sensors and high-responsive fires without guaranteed air dominance. Freeing commanders from coordinating the responsibility for synchronizing the growing list of lethal and nonlethal effects enables them to remain mobile and engaged, fighting from tank turrets or dismounted rather than being vulnerable while tied to command posts. On a future battlefield, this will not only keep them alive, but it will also make them more lethal and dominant in a close fight.
None of these organizational changes stand alone but work in concert to meet the challenges of the future battlefield. Army 2030 delivers vastly different capabilities at the division, corps, and theater levels because the threat on the future battlefield is more complex and technology far more advanced than envisioned under Air-Land Battle. Army 2030 echelons are purpose-built to deliver varying capabilities to each echelon, enabling our Army to win on the future battlefield, thus sending a clear deterrent signal to any potential adversary.
Army leaders recognize that the force optimized over the past 20 years to support counter-insurgency operations must undergo major changes to ensure it is prepared for large-scale combat against a major military power. Cheap and abundant sensors, paired with increasingly precise long-range fires and space, electronic warfare, and cyber capabilities, are changing the character of warfare and the type of force best suited for the battlefield. Army 2030 is the Army’s transformation plan to deliver the force required to deter aggression by maintaining a clear military advantage. This requires Army leaders to balance our ability to respond to today’s challenges with the transformation of our equipment, doctrine, and force structure for the future threat. Technological advances drive change in how armies organize and fight, while war remains a violent, bloody contest of wills between humans. Because people live on the land, conflicts will continue to be ultimately decided by the force with the capability to seize and hold ground. Victory is, and will always be, reliant on cohesive teams, disciplined, fit, and ready to fight and win. The United States is fortunate that we have the people — officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers, and civilians that make up our Army — giving us this asymmetric advantage over any adversary.
Gen. James Rainey is the commanding general of U.S. Army Futures Command and responsible for transforming the Army to ensure war-winning future readiness. He’s also contributed to U.S. Army’s transformation efforts in his two previous assignments as the deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7 at Headquarters Department of the Army, and the commanding general of the Combined Arms Center. Gen. Rainey has commanded soldiers at the battalion, brigade, and division level in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Lt. Gen. Laura Potter is the deputy chief of staff for intelligence (G-2) at the Headquarters Department of the Army. She led intelligence modernization and readiness efforts in her previous assignments as the commanding general and commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca, as well as director, J-2, U.S. European Command. Lt. Gen. Potter commanded and led troops while deployed, including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.