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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | March 3, 2020

Transforming the Joint Force: A Warfighting Concept for Great Power Competition

West 2020, San Diego, California

ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

Khaan Quest Opening 

Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia

15 June 2019
As Prepared Remarks



Sain Baina uu.

It is my pleasure to be here today with President Battulga on my first visit to Mongolia. It is an honor to meet you, sir, and I thank you for your warm hospitality.


Transforming the Joint Force:

A Warfighting Concept for Great Power Competition

West 2020, San Diego, California

March 03, 2020

Aloha and good afternoon.


Thank you, Bob, for the kind introduction, and thank you once again to the Naval Institute for hosting this one of a kind conference.


To both Bob and Pete, it is always a pleasure to see you, and I commend your leadership in making this event so successful.


Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge all of the brave men and women of our sea service deployed around the globe and in harm’s way. 


I salute those preparing for deployment as well –Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen alike – it is their service to our nation (each and every day) that truly makes the difference. 


Ladies and gentlemen, allow me begin our discussion today with a history lesson pertaining to – believe it or not – the Army and Air Force.  


However, in the end – I hope you will see – it is a story about the future of the Joint Force. 


In the mid-1970’s, the Army began to lift its head from its experience in Vietnam and re-examine its obligations in Europe, it found its position – poised as it was against the Soviet threat across the Fulda Gap – well, they found that position as daunting as it had ever been.


The United States’ defense construct – called Active Defense in 1976 – was that U.S. troops in Western Germany – over 200,000 strong – would fight to “not lose” the so called “First Battle” – and they would do so by trading space for time.  And by trading space, I mean ceding it – and that space was the territory of our allies. 


The calculus determined that this was the only pragmatic solution to fighting outnumbered, that’s to say fighting without rapidly escalating the fight or losing.


The conventional wisdom at that time – based on WWI and WWII models – was that U.S. forces would mobilize, deploy to Europe, and join our allies in reclaiming their lost territory.


Naturally, the possibility of this construct playing out upset the members of NATO (especially West Germany).


After all, the purpose of the alliance was (first and foremost) to prevent war, and to present a vision of how to fight without turning allied territory into a twice-contested battlefield – perhaps for the third time in a century.


Active Defense’s primary deficiency was that it did not account for the theater-strategic and alliance context of war.


Active Defense soon led to the U.S. Army’s development of AirLand Battle, which in brief, combined the U.S. Air Force’s deep fires, with the mobility of the Army’s maneuver forces, to deny Soviet objectives in the close fight. 


AirLand Battle took advantage of our capabilities, and also expanded on those in development, to evolve the strategic approach for the European Theater. 


And it merged tactical development, our technology, and our training into a common doctrine for the Joint Force.


In terms of tactical development – it is important to note that AirLand Battle changed the existing theater warfighting concept from “not losing the first battle,” to actually winning the most important one – defeating the Soviet’s second echelon force.  


This was a critical change because it directly challenged the heart of the Soviet military’s theory of victory.


Second, our advances in technology (such as emerging Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strike) not only filled known warfighting gaps; it also introduced new methods of striking and destroying the Soviet second echelon force. 


Third, AirLand Battle developed and integrated new training concepts and capabilities.  In what later became known as the “training revolution,” the Army took a lesson from the development of programs like the Navy’s Top Gun and Air Force’s Red Flag to create their own National Training Center.  


AirLand Battle’s integration of tactical development, technology, and training demonstrated – to our NATO allies and our adversary alike – the capability, the capacity, and the will to deny Soviet objectives, by imposing unacceptable cost on their conventional military forces.


AirLand Battle provided the U.S. and NATO Forces the strength and ability to deter Soviet aggression. 


Those of us who are old enough to remember know the value of a strong deterrent.  


We could all use a refresher lesson on the effectiveness of our deterrence strategy during the Cold War, as the principles of deterrence have not changed.  


Deterrence is only effective if the adversary believes a combat credible opponent force exists, with the capability…capacity…and will to fight and win. 


By definition, there are two types of deterrence: deterrence by punishment and deterrence by denial. 


Of course, there will always be an element of deterrence by punishment, where the deterrent lies in the promise of punishment on the adversary – generally following aggression.  Our nation’s strategic deterrent lies at the core of that element.


But, I think we can all agree that deterrence by punishment alone leaves few options should deterrence fail – and the consequences are enormous. 


The value of deterrence by denial comes in placing the burden on our adversary.  We must convince them that the costs to achieve their objectives by military force are simply too high.


In order to effectively deter, we need to arm our Joint Force with the proper capabilities, capacities, authorities, - indeed a resulting concept as doctrine.


One that supports rapid, integrated joint force employment with accurate offensive power, and effective defense. 


The National Defense Strategy charges us with revisiting the way we think about these last three decades of warfare, and is not very dissimilar to the challenges faced by those who led the AirLand Battle transformation.


New geo-political realities, expanding warfighting domains, and emerging technical capabilities are challenging the doctrinal status quo.  


The Joint Force must continue to transform its doctrine – or we will have little to fall back on except our recent experience in counter-insurgency and constabulary operations. 


Today’s transformation must be realized through the creation of a modern warfighting concept that can meet today’s challenges. 


At the heart of it, our forces must be as maneuverable – agile if you will – and have the depth of multi-domain fires needed to achieve positional advantage; must leverage an array of interoperable and compatible allies and partners, and demonstrate it has the “deterability” to deny and defeat. 


Let me be clear:  I am not saying the United States is facing a new Cold War, not at all.  Containment is not part of our strategy like it was in the Cold War.


However – like the Cold War – we must be doing everything possible to deter a fight.  And, AND!, we must be prepared to fight and win should competition turn to conflict.  


I know that I am speaking to an audience that is well-versed in your understanding of the military threat China presents. So today, I will focus on China’s strategic threat to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. 


I say it quite frequently, the Communist Party of China represents the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st Century, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but to the entire globe.  


The Communist Party of China is actively seeking to supplant the established rules-based international order, in order to dictate new international norms and behaviors, and new relationships to the region.  


Indeed, this very public goal is to establish norms that are driven, guided, and enforced by the Party in Beijing. 


Beijing’s approach is pernicious.  The Party uses coercion, influence operations, economic, military and diplomatic threats to bully other states to accommodate the Communist Party of China’s interests. 


These actions often directly undermine the sovereignty of other nations and threaten regional stability.  

Its direct threats to First Island Chain nations persist.  It’s development of multi-domain capabilities continue. Its deployment of capability continues to move farther afield across the globe.


In pursuit of its vision, the Communist Party of China employs a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as a vast propaganda machine, to garner the support and influence necessary to reshape relationships and gain accesses in the region that are more favorable to the Party’s interests. 


The Communist Party of China is looking to change the world order to one where Chinese national power is more important than international law; a system where the “strong do what they will and the weak do what they must.”


Indeed, we – not just the United States – but all nations – we are in a strategic competition between a Beijing-centric regional order and the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. 


The Clear-Hold-Build paradigm of the last three decades will not serve as a blueprint for doctrinal and capability developments for this competition. 


And, just as we saw with the AirLand Battle transformation, the process through which new concepts mature requires a revolution in tactical development, technology, and training.  


A new warfighting concept must deliver a similar sense of assurances to our allies and partners today that AirLand Battle provided to NATO member states in Europe in the 70s and 80s.


It must demonstrate the capability, the capacity, and the will to deny the adversary’s objectives in competition and crisis, and if deterrence fails, to fight and win. 


The fundamental design behind the evolving warfighting concept must be an Integrated Joint Force that can deny an adversary’s ability to dominate in the sea, air, land, space, and cyber domains – and support its own ability to dominate in the same. 


Additionally, it requires a more distributed joint position across the Indo-Pacific, and that posture must have the sustainment and force protection to be resilient, survivable, and supportable. 


In the Indo-Pacific, our Joint Force must more fully integrate its special operations forces, cyber capabilities, space forces, and ground forces equipped with long-range fires, to present an effective deterrent that holds an adversary – and all that adversary holds dear – at risk. 


It is not enough to play defense.  I often say catching missiles with missiles is the hardest thing we do.  An Indo-Pacific Warfighting Concept must have a strong offense as well. 


The integrated, Joint Force must have the capability to pose multiple dilemmas to the adversary as well - and as opposed to an ad-hoc joint force shaped to respond to a crisis only after it occurs.  Simply put, this requires us to continue to advance our jointness.


In the past, we could afford to integrate from time to time across a domain.  Today, we must be fully interoperable across all domains – all the time.


An Indo-Pacific Warfighting Concept will assure our allies and ensure continued access to the global system.  This is how our deterrence strategy will continue to underwrite the rules-based international order.   


In order to achieve this level of deterrence, our investments must harness the advanced capabilities provided by a network of leading-edge technologies, such as: 

  1. Integrated Air and Missile Defenses that employ multiple sensors and interceptors distributed across the region to protect – not only the Homeland, including U.S. territories, but also our U.S. Forces forward.  These IAMDs must leverage, integrate, and protect our critical allies and partners as well – and they must invest here too. 

  1. Long Range Precision Strike capabilities from across all platforms, services, and domains to hold at risk a variety of target sets (remember, multiple dilemmas) from distances both “in the clinch,” and from “outside the ring.” 

  1. Joint Command and Control (C2) Networks that provide speed and flexibility in decision-making, which allows penetration and then disintegration of an adversary’s systems and decision-making, thereby defeating their offensive capabilities.

  1. Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, remote sensing, machine learning, big data analytics, and 5G technology will all be required for a well-designed architecture to ensure we are interoperable and compatible in our offensive and defensive capabilities.  


When combined, these technologies will drive the development of the Joint Fires Network (JADC2), which will provide fire control solutions and collaborative engagement opportunities across the entirety of the Joint Force.  


The design principles guiding a Joint Fires Network include decentralized architecture, automation of fire control functions, and a common operating picture across the Joint Force for asset management. 


The Joint Fires Network must enable the Joint Force to dominate across all domains at the times and places of its choosing.  Help us improve on our and perform both simultaneous and sequential operations and do it throughout an ever-enlarging battlespace. 


With technology advances and tactical development must go more advanced joint training capability and capacity.


For its backbone, we need a joint – JOINT – network of training ranges capable of meeting the exercise, experimentation, and innovation objectives of the new warfighting concept. 


Unfortunately, our current range, test, and/or training facilities are built separately by each service - sometimes by their service test and development community - and rarely with the Joint Force in mind.  Further, they are not funded to enable joint training.


The Joint Force must have the ability to advance capability at scale – through accessible, all-domain, and integrated ranges that can support joint and combined training and exercises.  


We must strongly advocate for a joint network of live, virtual, and constructive ranges in key locations around the region to support joint and combined exercises, experimentation, and innovation. 


USINDOPACOM is home to – and in close proximity to – numerous Service and national training, testing, and operational ranges and related facilities.  


Some CONUS-based examples include:


Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base,

Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC) at Point Mugu,

Nevada Test and Training Center at Nellis, 

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and

Fallon Range Training Complex in Nevada.


And there are also several critical OCONUS facilities in the region:


The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) provides an unmatched, realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, large-scale operations, and multinational training,


Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands on Kauai is world's largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training range and the only range in the world where subsurface, surface, air and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously, and when combined with Pohakuloa Training Range – the only brigade size live fire range in the Indo-Pacific, presents an incredible joint opportunity. 


Lastly, the Reagan Test Site (RTS) on the Kwajalein atoll is uniquely qualified to support live missile testing and space surveillance operations due to its isolated location. 


Each of their facilities is optimized to fit a particular domain or a particular “test” or to gather information and provide feedback across a specific (usually narrow) area of interest.  


The Department must find a way to integrate and network these ranges to achieve the full potential of the new Warfighting Concept, just as the National Training Center became a fully instrumented, state-of-the-art training facility to realize the potential of AirLand Battle.


The only way to combat the security challenges we face in today’s dynamic operating environment is through a continuous campaign of joint experimentation and high-fidelity, multi-domain training.


The evolution of innovative operational concepts – directed by the NDS by the way – cannot occur without the capability to execute rigorous experiments, and the ability to take measured risks in the development of a more agile, integrated, and lethal force.   


Integrating our U.S. ranges in the region with allied ranges in Japan and Australia, would also allow us to advance joint and combined capability and capacity in a fully instrumented live-virtual-constructive proving ground.


An integrated U.S. and coalition force that regularly demonstrates operations across all domains can do the training needed that presents new challenges and dilemmas for potential adversaries.  


Additionally, a Joint Range Network provides us with the ability to reveal certain capabilities we want our adversaries to see, and conceal the things we don’t want them to see.  This is a major component of any strategy of deterrence.


USINDOPACOM must also increase the complexity and strength of its joint and combined exercises.

  1. Talisman Sabre is one of the premier military exercises in the region and has been increasing in complexity, size, and scope during each iteration.  We must continue to build on that. 


The joint biennial exercise between the United States and Australia involves more than 30,000 personnel and will continue its evolution by integrating more cyber and space operations and more advanced threats into its scenario.

  1. Keen Edge is our joint and bilateral exercise focused on the defense of Japan.  


The United States’ bilateral relationship with Japan will continue to deepen; our collaboration gets better and better month-by-month.  


We will continue to develop the integration required during high-end conflict to: Collaborate more effectively and expeditiously between the U.S. Joint Force and the Japan Self-Defense Force; overcome information-sharing challenges with our closest non-FVEY partner; and enhance the transparency needed to fight at the speed of conflict in the 21st Century. 

  1. Valiant Shield is our biennial exercise designed to further refine live fire test and evaluation of the evolving suite of net-enabled weapons across the Joint Force. 


This U.S.-only exercise features the Services’ most advanced platforms and units (Marine F-35s, Navy P-8s, and the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force) to come to test our ability to conduct joint-enabled, assault, forward in the Indo-Pacific. 


This complex training set enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces during the entirety of the detect-to-engage sequence to employ precision munitions in all domains. 


Each iteration seeks to advance the independence of ISR platforms, the distribution and decentralization of long-range precision strike elements, and the integration of shared set elements (Link-16, electronic support measures, and voice capabilities) in order to achieve more seamlessness and simplicity in conducting joint integrate fires and command and control. 


Ultimately, these exercises serve as the ideal setting where tactical development, technology, and training converge for the Joint and Combined Force – necessary to deter and absolutely necessary to fight and win.


In closing, the U.S. must leverage its technology, its tactical development, and its training to deliver the kind of “Indo-Pacific” Warfighting Concept that demonstrates its will, its capacity, and its capability to fight and win.


We are working with the Pentagon, our Services, our Components, and the Hill to get this right. 


One final note to everyone in attendance – your desire to innovate, to challenge, to discover, to think both critically and creatively, and most importantly, to act…is the key to ensuring our United States military continues to be the absolute best in the world.


I thank you for your time today, and for your desire to advance our Joint Force capability in the future.


May God bless the men and women of the United States Sea Service – every Sailor, Marine, and Coastguardsman – and May God Bless the United States of America. 


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