How did Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) emerge as a concept in the military world, and what were the catalysts that drove its development? What factors have influenced the evolution of MDO, and how does it parallel the historical development of concepts like AirLand Battle?
The development of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) in the military world is an intricate journey, marked by a confluence of ideas, catalysts, and pragmatic considerations. This paper by Dwight “Buzz” Phillips (RAND) delves into the complex evolution of MDO, highlighting how it emerged as a result of diverse dialogues within the military and civilian defense sectors. The critical backing of senior Army leadership and the urgency sparked by Russia’s invasion of Crimea were instrumental in propelling MDO forward.
As with many military concepts, MDO’s path was not a straight line. The transformation of MDO, much like the historical evolution of concepts such as AirLand Battle, will need to be honed by rigorous training and battlefield encounters.
The paper emphasizes that the success of MDO relies not only on thinkers but also on the dedication and expertise of those who put it into practice. Four key factors, including combined arms synchronization, dispersion and concealment, adaptation battles, and logistics sufficiency, present natural tensions that must be addressed for MDO’s inner workings to function effectively. The paper underscores the need for well-maintained, well-trained, and well-integrated capabilities, which are essential for overcoming the challenges posed by modern defenses. Ultimately, the essence of MDO lies in well-coordinated combined arms operations with sustainable logistics, striking the right balance between caution and aggressive action.
The paper concludes that MDO’s success will be realized through the dedication and rigorous training of crews, companies, battalions, and staff echelons in training centers, as well as through wargames and exercises that evaluate its scalability to the operational level. MDO has transitioned from being a visionary concept to a tangible reality forged by the implementers and doers in the field, marking a significant shift in its evolution.
Author: Dr Dwight “Buzz” Philips is a Senior Researcher at the RAND Corporation. He has held numerous positions at the Department of Defense before that, including US Central Command and the Department of the Army. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago.
On 27 September, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and NATO HQ Supreme Allied Command Transformation co-hosted a symposium on “rethinking fire and manoeuvre”, an event focused on what the future of warfighting means for the alliance. This paper is part of a series written for the event and relates to the panel on: Warfighting across Shaping, Contesting and Fighting.