The importance of joint operations in defending the Indo-Pacific region has increased by an order of magnitude, U.S. military leaders said.
At a conference in Arlington, Virginia, sponsored by Defense News, the paper's David Larter moderated a joint service panel titled "Defending the Pacific."
All panel members stressed the importance of joint solutions in multidomain operations they foresee taking place in the region, and they discussed what the return to great power competition means to the U.S. effort in the region.
There is no doubt that an increased threat from China and Russia in the Indo-Pacific region has meant changes to U.S. strategy and requirements, and the National Defense Strategy is the tie that binds in the region, the panelists said.
"The concept of multidomain operations, the concept of being able to connect any shooter with any weapon to any sensor, is not a small challenge," said Maj. Gen. Mike Fantini, the Air Force's director of wartime integration.
Fantini said he sees a time when it doesn't matter which service owns a sensor. All services will be networked together so the command can "execute thousands of kill chains in hundreds of hours," he said.
"If we are able to pull that off," he added, "our potential adversaries will think twice before they start to step off."
Vice Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, the Navy's deputy chief of operations, plans and strategy, said the new situation requires a new look. The United States had not had a comprehensive adversary for three decades, he noted. "As a result of that," he said, "we are restoring some behaviors that used to be second nature to us."
While new capabilities grab the headlines in a way that new quarterbacks do in football, "the blocking and tackling" are just as important, Munsch said. Logistics enables everything done in the region and beyond, the admiral said, and more attention must now be paid to that aspect of warfare.
Everything is predicated on the truism that all in the Defense Department are members of a joint force, said Lt. Gen. Eric M. Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. This is even more important in the Indo-Pacific region, he said, because the distances in the region are overwhelming and the resources of any one service would be spread thin.
Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, director of the Army's Future Concepts Center, said force posture in the region and worldwide needs to be studied. He said there is a need to have resources based forward to challenge competitors who are not afraid to pursue their goals "left of conflict."
"The degree to which we find ourselves forward-postured will measure the degree which we can effectively deal with that against China and Russia," he said.