by MSG Eladio Tirado, US Army
The United States Army’s long-standing tradition of safeguarding the country and preserving peace by preparing for and, if necessary, engaging in and prevailing in the nation’s wars. It is imperative for the Army always to be ready for battle and to emerge victorious. In today’s intense global competition, the Army must actively strive to defend the nation’s interests (Department of the Army, 2022). The advancement of technology and increasing global interconnectivity has resulted in an increasingly complex and dynamic operational environment (OE) for military organizations. To effectively operate across multiple domains, including land, air, sea, cyber, and space, the military must prioritize the development and management of its personnel.
Retaining talent in the context of multidomain operations environments in the military is critical. Recruitment and retention issues are familiar to all-volunteer militaries (Guida, 2021). This paper aims to provide an overview of the current practices and challenges faced in military talent management and to identify potential strategies for effectively managing talent in a complex and rapidly changing OE. One cannot overstate the importance of this topic because attracting, retaining, and developing a highly skilled and competent military workforce is crucial to the military’s ability to complete its mission successfully. Leaders must act now to ensure the military has the necessary skills and talent for future operations. To achieve success in large-scale combat operations, talent management and training in multidomain operations must be prioritized for all Soldiers, starting from the junior ranks, to cultivate a solid and capable leadership foundation.
Large-Scale Combat Operations in Multidomain Environment
Military operations that involve significant numbers of troops and resources and are typically executed over a large geographic area are known as large-scale combat operations. According to the Department of the Army (2019), “large-scale combat operations are extensive joint combat operations in terms of scope and size of forces committed, conducted as a campaign aimed at achieving operational and strategic objectives” (p. 1-5). In the context of the Army, these types of operations typically involve a high degree of complexity, coordination, and risk. They may require integrating multiple capabilities across multiple domains (Department of the Army, 2022).
Large-scale combat operations aim to achieve strategic or tactical goals, such as defeating enemy forces, protecting national interests, or restoring peace. Effective planning and execution of large-scale combat operations are critical to the success of military missions and the safety of military personnel. Furthermore, with the threat of peer-to-near-peer enemies like Russia and China, and their capabilities to operate in a multidomain environment, the Army must prepare leaders to leverage advantages over enemies in a technologically complex environment (United States Army, 2019). To stay ahead in multidomain operations, the Army needs to attract and keep Soldiers familiar with these systems and effectively utilize the growing influence of the cyber and space domains.
Multidomain operations integrate military capabilities across multiple domains, including land, air, sea, cyber, and space. Previous conflicts focused on land, air, and sea domains. The Army’s future battle will focus on cyber and space. Multidomain operations aim to create synergies between capabilities across domains and leverage these capabilities to achieve strategic or tactical goals (Department of the Army, 2022). Army forces regularly employ capabilities across various domains, for example, air, land, and sea, to move equipment with organic capabilities among different theaters.
Furthermore, space and cyberspace provide the ability to operate in these domains. To integrate these systems into the OE, these operations require a high degree of collaboration, coordination, and integration of capabilities. It demands a superior level of situational awareness and agility. Therefore, retaining the right leader to operate in this environment is crucial. Department of the Army (2022) states:
Army leaders are accustomed to creating and exploiting relative advantages through the combined-arms approach that traditionally focuses on capabilities from the land, air, and maritime domains. The proliferation of space and cyberspace capabilities further requires leaders who understand the advantages those capabilities create in their operational environment. The ability to integrate and synchronize space and cyberspace capabilities at the most effective tactical echelon expands options for creating advantages to exploit. (p.1-3)
Effective execution of multidomain operations is critical for the success of military missions and achieving the desired outcome in complex and rapidly changing environments. Moreover, leaders’ focus on training to operate in space and cyberspace is imperative. Talent to operate in space and cyberspace is readily available in the civilian sector. Unless the Army mirrors what a civilian organization offers, for example, pay and quality of life, the Army cannot expect to retain talent (Department of the Army, 2020). During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, talented Soldiers completed their terms of service and rapidly transitioned to the civilian sector to do the same job but with higher pay and benefits, taking much-needed talent elsewhere (Guida, 2021). Managing talent and training to work in these domains is critical. The future operational environment dominated by technological advances requires skill and the right people for the Army to succeed.
Army’s Future Operational Environment
The Army’s future operational environment related to multidomain operations involves integrating and synchronizing operations across multiple domains, including air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. The goal is to increase the Army’s ability to operate effectively in complex and dynamic environments, especially in support of joint and coalition operations (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2022). To achieve this goal, the Army is currently undergoing a modernization effort focused on developing and integrating innovative technologies and capabilities to enable multidomain operations to deter adversaries that could use in the future to engage in conflict (United States Army Futures Command, 2021).
The United States Army Futures Command (2021) describes the future operational environment as having two critical factors that influence Army modernization and the requirement to manage talent. These factors are the concentration of global power and global technological innovation. Significantly, these elements have a mutual relationship: technological advancements can enhance power, and power and resources can drive further innovation. Army leaders must understand the relationship to educate Soldiers in this future environment (United States Army, 2019). Powerful nations use technological innovations to retain their power or to challenge dominant powers, as seen in different scenarios. Emerging countries, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), for example, use recent ballistic missile testing to challenge dominant powers. Emerging countries see the concentration of global power as a threat and will seek means to challenge dominant nations.
A North Korean Soldier stands guard at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (August 11, 2011) Source.
The Concentration of Global Power
The concentration of global power refers to the distribution and concentration of resources, wealth, political influence, and military strength among a limited number of actors in the international system. It often refers to the dominance of a few powerful states, transnational corporations, and international organizations that shape the world’s policies and decisions (United States Army Futures Command, 2021). The United States can no longer assume political, economic, or security superiority. With today’s technological advances, emerging nations are influencing space and cyberspace domains to get ahead and attain greater power and influence in the global arena. The shift in power distribution has made the international system more complex and challenging traditional assumptions about the balance of power (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2022). The rise of new actors, changing technological landscape, and shifting economic power have redefined the global power structure and have highlighted the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of changing circumstances.
The Army’s current generation of Soldiers is technologically dependent. The Army can benefit from this by integrating this capability into developing new equipment that matches what is available outside the military. Seeking input from future Soldiers to innovate and modernize equipment can lead to higher talent retention, as Soldiers feel they are part of the innovation process (United States Army, 2019). Currently, Army Futures Command Software Factory is a rank immaterial organization looking to recruit the best and brightest talented Soldiers from around the Army to solve software problems and provide solutions in an innovative way to the Army (United States Army Futures Command, 2021).
Global Technological Innovation
Global technological innovation refers to creating, developing, and implementing new or improved technologies that have a worldwide impact. Innovations can include information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy, transportation, and communication advancements. Global technological innovation drives economic growth and competitiveness, improves the quality of life, and can lead to significant advancements in various fields. For example, companies are incorporating remote working environments to improve the quality of life of their employees. In a multidomain environment, Soldiers can fight a war from any location in the world, providing stability for the Soldiers and their families (United States Army, 2019). It also contributes to creating new products, services, and industries and can disrupt established ones. Global technological advancements will profoundly impact future competition and potential conflict, changing the utilization of military tools and shaping military strategies. However, the path of technological innovation is unpredictable and does not follow a straightforward pattern (United States Army Futures Command, 2021).
Enemies will broaden their dangers to different areas, including land, sea, air, space, and the digital world. They will use hybrid tactics that utilize a variety of abilities, trying to avoid a typical battle between opposing forces. Space will become a more crowded, commercialized, democratized, and disputed area, slowing operations and causing more confusion (United States Army, 2019). Additionally, the meaning of national security will broaden to include safeguarding essential civilian facilities, such as digital infrastructure and financial systems, and public health. In recent years digital infrastructure attacks disrupted critical infrastructure in the United States. For example, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in 2021 received extensive media attention. It had a significant impact worldwide as it is a crucial component of the US’s critical national infrastructure. The attack disrupted the supply of fuel and gas throughout the country, leading to chaos and concern. The gasoline shortage directly affects all Americans, making the attack potentially impactful to many individuals (Mutune, 2021).
As enemies continue to explore ways to attack nations through multidomain environments, the Army must evolve to deter conflict and stop the aggression adversaries bring to the future operational environment (Department of the Army, 2019). In an alternative future where, military parity prevents major wars, digital tactics such as cyber-attacks and defense of essential systems, projecting power through digital means, and managing information electronically will become increasingly important. To do so, training leaders and retaining talent to operate in space and cyberspace domains is imperative.
Training to Succeed in a Multidomain Operation Environment
Training is a crucial aspect of preparation for success in a multidomain operations environment. The integration of capabilities across multiple domains and the high degree of complexity and coordination required in multidomain operations demand that military personnel be well-trained and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge. Army doctrine provides professional knowledge that Army leaders need to remain proficient and current in this constantly changing OE. Department of the Army (2019) defines Army doctrine as “fundamental principles, with supporting tactics, techniques, procedures, and terms and symbols, used for the conduct of operations and as a guide for actions of operating forces, and elements of the institutional force that directly support operations supporting national objectives” (p. 1-2). Based on this definition, leaders operating in a multidomain environment must seek doctrine as the foundation to train Soldiers to operate across multiple domains effectively.
Effective training programs must focus on developing the technical, cognitive, and interpersonal skills required for success in a complex and rapidly changing environment. This may include training in areas such as cross-domain integration, situational awareness, communication, and decision-making (Department of the Army, 2019). Additionally, leaders must design training to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and scalable for the needs of individual personnel and units. Army modernization strategy must incorporate Soldier development and talent management to achieve full potential to win in a multidomain environment.
According to United States Army (2019), “The Army has always relied upon capable and highly trained Soldiers. The complexities of emerging technologies, the global security environment, and the sophistication of our multidomain concept make that reliance all the greater” (p. 8). Therefore, doctrine must evolve as soon as the OE changes. The Army will consistently revise its doctrine, organizational structures, and training to enable operations as a multidomain force. The success of military missions in a multidomain operation environment will depend, in large part, on the ability of personnel to effectively execute the training they receive. Combat operations on a large scale occur as part of a combined effort. To comprehend the function of land forces in the overall effort, it is necessary to be familiar with the joint structure and principles (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2022). To be effective members of a joint force, talented Soldiers must possess the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that allow them to work seamlessly with other military branches, government agencies, and international partners toward a common goal.
Retaining Talent to Win in Multidomain Operations
Retaining talent is critical to success in a multidomain environment. Large-scale combat operations’ complex and dynamic nature demands a highly skilled and competent workforce. Effective talent management strategies must focus on attracting, retaining, and developing the personnel required to meet the operational demands of the military (Department of the Army, 2021). This may include programs to identify, assess, and develop the skills and abilities of personnel and provide incentives and recognition for high-performing personnel. Effective talent management must also create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture where personnel feels valued, respected, and supported in their professional development (Guida, 2021). The Army’s innovative approach to incorporating Soldiers’ input in military equipment development is historically proven to impact retention positively (United States Army, 2019). Retaining talent is essential for ensuring military forces’ continued readiness and capability and is critical to the success of military missions in a multidomain environment.
Additionally, effective communication and leadership are critical components of retaining talent. Commanders and supervisors must be able to communicate expectations, provide regular feedback, and foster a sense of shared purpose. They must also provide opportunities for professional growth and career advancement and recognize and reward outstanding performance (Department of the Army, 2021). An emphasis on continuous learning and training is critical to ensure that personnel possess the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in dynamic and complex operational environments. A culture of respect, trust, and accountability is crucial to attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent in military operations focused on a multidomain environment.
The Army must prioritize talent management in military operations to reinforce a multidomain environment. To achieve success in large-scale combat operations, leaders must prioritize training in multidomain operations for all Soldiers, starting from the junior ranks, to cultivate a solid and capable leadership foundation. It integrates capabilities across multiple domains and the high complexity and coordination required to demand a highly skilled and competent workforce. Effective talent management strategies must focus on attracting, retaining, and developing the personnel needed to meet the operational demands of the military. This must include programs to identify, assess, and develop the skills and abilities of personnel and provide incentives and recognition for high-performing personnel.
Effective talent management must create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture where Soldiers and civilians feel valued, respected, and supported in their professional development. The success of military operations in a multidomain environment will depend, in large part, on the ability of the military to effectively manage its talent and to ensure the continued readiness and capability of its personnel. By prioritizing talent management, the military can maximize its ability to complete its mission successfully and defend the nation’s interests in a rapidly changing and complex OE.
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United States Army Futures Command. (2021). Future operational environment: Forging the future in an uncertain world 2035-2050 (AFC PAM 525-2). https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/AD1128552
MSG Eladio Tirado joined the Army in January 2003 as a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter Mechanic. Overseas tours include Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Eladio served every leadership position in army aviation including flight instructor, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, and operations sergeant. Currently a student at the Sergeants Major Academy and is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Aviation Maintenance Management.
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