WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army plans to spend about the next two years finalizing key decisions about what its future formation design will look like. in the 2040sthe service’s four-star modernization and requirements general said last week at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Forces Symposium.
“2040 seems like a long way off,” Army Futures Command chief Gen. James Rainey said in a March 29 speech, “but I think we have a window of about 18 to 24 months that we have to carry on with a sense of urgency to understand what’s going to be different, what the operating environment is going to be like, not to get it right, but to make sure we’re not really wrong and to be in a better position than the one we are fighting.
The AFC “has a responsibility to find that deep future operating environment, and we need to start iterating on the concept. We hope to be in the concept draft by this fall, probably,” he said.
THE the command was established in 2018 to help service focus on force modernization. Retaking command last fall, Rainey is her second in command.
Working with Training and Doctrine Command, the AFC will need to determine how the Army will fight in the future — particularly a 2040 baseline — and then design combat formations that can support that, Rainey said. to Defense News in an exclusive interview at the show.
The army is well on its way to deploying more 30 weapon systems and other abilities in 2030 which will allow the service fight in all areas against opponents able to deny access to key ground, Rainey said.
“We are going to buy vehicles, systems, weapons, radios, but we have to transform our training as training,” he said in his speech. “We buy things, but we fight formations, so everything we do on a material level has to be ‘how does that fit into a formation? And we will make better decisions, frankly. Most importantly, we will put better formations on the battlefield.
There are still a variety of questions to be answered as the service builds its future strength, and many of them need to be addressed quickly. “Let me talk about the sense of urgency to 2040,” Rainey said in his speech. “When I say 2040, I’m talking about a fully deployed military in 2040. To do that, we’ll need to be in full aggressive deployment mode by about 2035.”
If the capability is to be fielded by 2035 to build the 2040 force, “they probably have to be prototyping, in low-rate production, something like this in this space by 2031,” Rainey said.
At present, the army is working on a five-year period defense spending plan which covers the fiscal year 2025 to 2029, he pointed out.
According to Rainey, the concepts developed during this period will need to be verified “rigorously and aggressively” through experimentation. The Army’s Project Convergence “Learning Campaign” effort is one such venue for experimentation, but the service will persistently experiment through other means, such as in-theatre exercises, to better develop concepts.
Science and technology priorities will also need to be set and finalized by the Secretary and Army Chief, Rainey said. “I think by this fall we need to start having more clarity,” but we probably won’t be working on funding plans until the next two five-year budget planning cycles, he noted.
The Army plans to complete an initial concept within the next six months, according to Rainey, so that TRADOC Centers of Excellence and the AFC Capability Development and Integration Directorates in partnership with United Nations Command US Army forces can develop new concepts of individual combat functions such as fire, intelligence and maneuver from FY24.
Rainey landed on a few ways he knows rosters will need to change and what they will need to have.
“We have a lot of light formations in the army,” he said. “I believe we need to increase the lethality and survivability of our light formations.”
Giving this ability to lighter formations will also help the army lighten the logistics queue heavy formations, which will be needed in contested environments in the future, he said.
Formations must also have proper human-machine integration, Rainey said. “It’s the game changer.” The current challenge, he said, is that much of what is being done is ambitious, like replacing a tank with a robotic tank.
“I totally agree, and we should work on it, but it blinds us to what is absolutely doable now,” Rainey pointed out, like offloading tasks like menial tasks, more risky tasks from soldiers and the entrust to machines.
And finally, Rainey said, formations must be redundant and reliable in a contested environment. “You can’t have single points of failure,” he said, and “we have to eliminate complexity.”
Rainey pointed out in his interview with Defense News that while the AFC looks to 2040 and some of them may require minor adjustments to weapons development plans or sourcing decisions, “the success of our modernization relies on our consistency, so we don’t want to lose focus.”
General Mike Murray, First Commander of the AFCwho preceded Rainey, “did a great job of getting the requirements documents very close to the right” and there are no plans “to move the goalposts,” he said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning reporter covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.