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Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. | U.S. Pacific Command | May 24, 2017

Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition
Honolulu, HI

May 24, 2017
As Delivered

Now, some of you out there might be thinking that this is some sort of a prank: a salty old Admiral speaking 'Army-ese' at an AUSA event… for the second year in a row, even. But, I assure you that I’m here because I believe in the message that I’m about to deliver. I’ll hedge that statement a bit, though, and say that if my comments miss the mark, you can blame Guy Swann for making the same mistake two years in a row when he invited the Naval Academy’s Old Goat to speak to the 'Army-est' of Army organizations.

 In all seriousness, this is the perfect place for me as the Joint Force Commander to discuss a very important initiative out here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

 Last year, General McMaster, in his previous job, asked me a very pointed question, ‘What do you want the Army to do?’ The first thing that came to my mind was for West Point to try harder to beat Navy on the gridiron.

But then I realized that a serious man was asking me a serious question, so I threw down the gauntlet. 

I told H.R. that I’d like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile – near simultaneously – in a complex environment where our joint and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains. 

 Oh… and try to beat Navy.

Now I could’ve dropped the mic and just walked away… because Army did in fact beat Navy last fall – and only for the second time this century I might add. And that was not exactly the Navy that I wanted Army to sink! 

But anyway, I decided to build on that momentum, so we put together a tiger team at PACOM, led by Air Force Brigadier General "Mini" Minihan, to help turn the Multi-Domain Battle concept into something operational that we can exercise and train to. With the support of all the service components, we’re putting a lot of effort into this thing.

Now, this isn’t just about land forces in the Pacific. In addition to the Army and Marine Corps, the Navy and Air Force are also convinced that this is the right way for us to organize to fight our way through those contested environments where the Joint Force doesn’t necessarily possess a clear advantage over the adversary. 

Simply put, this concept provides us a way to ensure access to the global commons in the run-up to war… and fight in those same commons should war come. 

Components must increase their agility and provide support to each other across the warfighting domains. Folks, Multi-Domain Battle is joint warfighting at the tactical and even operational levels to give us real strategic effects.

The end result of my challenge shouldn’t be a simple exercise where we all high five at the end and then head back to the comforts of our Services. No, we must incorporate this concept into the way we train year-round. And we all know that tomorrow's fights are won during today’s training.

Therefore, we’ll integrate Multi-Domain Battle into command post exercises to check our assumptions. Then we’ll integrate it into our field training exercises that focus on getting our alphabet soup of sensors and shooters talking to one another. Service-specific systems must be able to talk to one another if any of this is going to achieve the effects that we’re looking for. Ideally we’ll get to a point where we see the Joint Force as a network of sensors and shooters allowing the best capability from any single service to provide cross domain fires.

We’ll continue to work out the kinks during increasingly complex exercises like Yama Sakura, RIMPAC, Pacific Sentry, Keen Edge, Valiant Shield, and Talisman Saber. I agree with my component commanders: General Bob Brown, Lieutenant General Dave Berger, Admiral Notso Swift, General Shags O’Shaughnessy, and General Dan Yoo – who were up here yesterday, I think, in a pretty visible demonstration of component solidarity – who look at these exercises as opportunities to test new ideas and push each other to get better.

Significant to this audience, during RIMPAC 2018, USARPAC will fire a Naval Strike Missile from the shore to sink a ship. Our Japanese allies will also fire a shore-based missile during this SINKEX. Folks, RIMPAC 2018 is just a year away. Outcomes like these address some of the tough problems that we face together in archipelagic defense scenarios.

This is important because the joint force must have faster, longer range, more precise, more lethal, and – importantly – more cost-effective and resource-informed solutions. Not exquisite solutions that break the bank. Exquisite solutions mean that we'll field weapons in the one-sy, two-sy range – like animals in Noah's Ark. Meanwhile, our adversaries are fielding advanced weapons in numbers approaching the zombie apocalypse. 

So it’s critical that we approach implementing the Multi-Domain Battle concept with a sense of urgency. Since we’re in baseball season, I’ll say that moving at the speed of need means there’s a potential for us to strike out at times… but that’s okay. We’ll get plenty of hits, and maybe even a few home runs. 

Consider, for example, what the Marines are doing to advance this concept. Headquarters Marine Corps and MARFORPAC are working to deploy HIMARS rapidly aboard ships, to shoot at other ships. The Commandant’s Warfighting Lab is working overtime – with industry – to come up with new ways to employ technologies that allow the Marines to operate across domains more effectively. 

Now let’s keep in mind that batting .400 will get you into Cooperstown. Imagine that: failing 6 times out of 10… and you still get into the Hall of Fame. So I look at our risk-averse culture and shake my head. Getting Multi-Domain Battle is risky, it’s hard, and it may be expensive… but it’s absolutely essential if we’re to fight and win in the complex, networked, and pressurized battlespace of the 21st Century.

We can fail in public. We can’t be afraid to do that. Babe Ruth once said when asked about his thoughts on striking out. And I’ll quote him, "What do I think about when I strike out? I think about hitting home runs." Unquote.

Even when we miss, I want to learn from the experience and continue to swing for the fences.

Now I know that some of you out there are fans of the Moneyball theory… you know, leaving alms at the altar of on-base percentage. But North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un isn’t playing small ball. He’s not afraid to fail in public… in fact, he’s swinging for those fences. And so, too, must we.

And I believe we’ve hit some home runs already.

For example, while on patrol in 2007, USS Chafee received a call for fires from some special operators on mission in Somalia. After some higher echelon coordination, Team Chafee answered that call with accurate and lethal five-inch rounds… hot metal on target. But naval gunfire support is in the Navy’s DNA, so that really isn’t something new.

So let’s flip the script. Imagine, if you will, a less capable ship coming under attack in an area of the world where our land forces are within range to help out. Imagine if some of those ground-based artillery batteries could take out that attacker because it’s the best weapon in the best place to do so. 

Now, I’m perfectly aware that many technical – and, to be quite frank, cultural – challenges exist to prevent this scenario from happening. I’m also aware of some treaty obligations that restrict us from developing advanced land-based anti-ship missiles of consequential range that can compete with those produced by other nations. Some countries simply ignore the treaties they’ve signed on for… and others who aren’t signatories are of course unconstrained in developing hordes of high-end land-based missiles… where "quantity has a quality all its own." At the end of the day, we are de facto unilaterally limiting our ability to stay ahead of the threats we face. We are bringing a knife to a gun fight.

But I’m confident, that if we work at it, we can figure out what it takes for America to field the types of systems that enable our Joint Force to realize the full potential of the Multi-Domain Battle concept while, importantly and at the same time, adhering to our treaty obligations.

The goal to provide joint solutions between sensors and shooters at the tactical level across multiple domains… this is juice worth the squeeze. A forward-deployed ground force can create temporal windows of opportunity to gain superiority in multiple domains that will allow the other components to kill the enemy more effectively.

But think of this like a ride sharing app… the Uber, the Lyft, the Car2Go, or the ZipCar of targeting, if you will. As you all know, ride-sharing apps continue to innovate as they compete for customers. You can now select the type of vehicle you’re looking for based on what you need to do, and when you need to do it. Do you need an S.U.V.? Or just a small hybrid? Do you need a car for a one-way trip… or for a round trip or for all day? Maybe sharing a vehicle with someone else makes more sense at that moment in time.

So I’m looking for an analogous application of this idea to network sensors and shooters to provide the best solution for the mission – built on a foundation of integration across platforms. Instead of ride sharing, I’m looking for target sharing.

This target sharing between a distributed network of sensors and shooters is the future I believe that we must drive toward. Imagine a future battlespace where maybe the best ordnance for a specific target held by a Navy sensor could come from an Army shooter. Or maybe it’s the reverse. Regardless, I want the app for that.

Ballistic Missile Defense is an area where we could really take advantage of this kind of network by bringing our Allies in at the get go. Imagine AEGIS ships, AEGIS Ashore sites, THAAD and Patriot batteries; E-2Ds, Australian Wedgetails, Japanese Advanced Hawkeyes, and South Korean Global Hawks… all connected in the same network for the same purpose – that purpose being to safeguard the many millions of innocent people living in areas that fall within the range of Pyongyang’s missiles. Folks, that’s a big idea but it’s not impossible; I need you smart folks in this room to move this idea forward.

So I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all of the answers to what this looks like – in fact, I don’t have any of the answers – but I’d like for us to continue to study and experiment with it and see where we can use the Third Offset Strategy to fill in some of the gaps and seams that arise.

Now, this Third Offset isn’t about building killer robots… although I’d probably like some of that, too. In fact, it’s largely about leveraging artificial intelligence, or A.I., to make better decisions. Developing the technologies that empower people. A.I. and man-machine teams take advantage of autonomy to ultimately inject more time back in the human’s decision cycle to make time our ally – and the enemy of our enemy. And technology is mature enough, in my opinion, to do that right now. 

With the length of this speech, I’m sure you’re all probably thinking that A.I. might have made a better decision, inviting someone else to talk to you this morning.

But in all seriousness, the men and women of today’s Joint Force will need machines to help sort through the mountains of data that are presented to us by other machines. In fact, a recent Defense Science board report on autonomy published last summer recognized how important autonomous systems and advances in A.I. could be in speeding up our decision making ability.

So before going "all in" on A.I., I’ll agree with General Paul Selva who once said that we do need to limit how the technology is used in order to avoid that dreaded killer-robot scenario. The Vice Chairman is a great leader on these issues and he’s exactly right. We need to anchor the autonomy of our systems in our own human morality to take advantage of its benefits without stumbling into the unintended consequences of worst-case scenarios better left to science fiction writers. 

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work has stated on many occasions, this strategy is not about technology as much as it is about the operational concepts and organizational constructs that will shape the way we integrate and use technology. Stronger, more agile networks and command structures supported by a forward-postured Integrated Joint Force will be required to realize the benefits of this Multi-Domain Battle concept.

So I spoke last February in San Diego, where I said that to ensure America’s beacon of light continues to shine – even to the farthest and darkest corners of the globe – we must continue to develop the innovative capabilities that allow good to overcome evil. Our country must maintain credible combat power – in concert with like-minded allies and partners – to preserve the unimpeded access to all the global commons: sea, air, space, and cyber.

And the time to act is now – for I believe we’re approaching an inflection point in history. 

We’re certainly not approaching anything resembling the end of history. Freedom, justice and the rules-based international order hang in the balance. And the scale won’t tip of its own accord simply because good people wish it so.

So folks, we’ve talked a bit about baseball this morning, so I’m reminded of that story where the visiting team was getting pounded in the 1st inning by the Boston Red Sox – now something that the Boston fans in my office say happen all the time. I doubt that, but that’s what they tell me… I read it on the internet. 

So the visiting manager walks out of the dugout and he goes directly to the mound, where he takes the ball from the pitcher. The pitcher protests, ‘Coach, I’m not tired.’ 

But the manager – with a practiced eye – said ‘Yeah son, I know… but the outfielders sure are.’

So, for all you outfielders out there, I’ll wrap this up with another quote from a 19th Century preacher who said, "There are two kinds of fools: one says, this is old, therefore it is good; the other fool says, this is new, therefore it is better."

The Multi-Domain Battle concept offers us an opportunity to avoid being so foolish as to glom on to the next bright, shiny technology without taking into account the wisdom of our nation’s lengthy experience in war. Let’s continue to test this thing out… but with a sense of who we are and what we are. And with a sense of urgency.

So ladies and gentlemen, we’re truly blessed to have men and women like all of you who volunteer to serve our country around the globe. Your choice of service is noble and I’m proud to serve with each of you. 

I’m also proud of our industry partners who support us with the tools that we need to get the job done. For the better part of the old Cold War, warriors like me, most of the technological challenges and changes that have happened inside of our military came from scientists inside our government… internal innovation, if you will. But that is no longer true. Innovation now is more likely to come from the commercial sector than it is from the military sector. And we have to learn how to capitalize on that. We have to learn how to capitalize on that.

This underscores the importance of venues like LANPAC 2017 – where our military leaders can learn from the best that our industry provides. And where our captains of industry can learn from us what we need to get the job done. So, I truly thank you all for what you do on a daily basis to help ensure that we remain ready to fight tonight… and win no matter what the challenge. 

May God bless the men and women who choose to wear the cloth of the Nation. May God bless our Joint Forces… and may God bless the beacon of freedom that we call America. Thank you very much.

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