FORT MEADE, Md. — As Army leaders consider the next steps in force modernization, they stressed the importance of working with allied partners in both Europe and Southeast Asia.
Amid a proposed $178 billion budget for fiscal year 2021, the military plans to expand its competitive edge against close peers in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.
At an event in Washington on Wednesday sponsored by the Center for a New American Security, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said the service was studying the possibility of establishing expeditionary bases in Southeast Asia, similar to those of the European continent.
While McCarthy said during a trip overseas, foreign military partners in the region have shown enthusiasm for expanding the base, potentially to serve as locations for military exercises such as Pacific Pathways. Faced with the threat of China’s own modernization efforts and its anti-access/area denial sensor technology, establishing a forward operating base for long-range sniping could help quell this. threat, he said.
“It’s amazing how aggressive they are for us to establish a more robust expeditionary base to increase the size and scale of our exercises,” the Secretary of the Army said. “It’s a great energy. We haven’t had a specific discussion about it to date. But nothing but excitement.”
Last week, the service announced the activation of V Corps, which will support an operational command post in Europe, but will be based in the United States at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The V Corps should be established by the fall.
The Army created the Defender 2020 Contingency Deployment Readiness Exercise program in Europe to build soldier readiness in the region, while helping soldiers synchronize with partner nations and apply the national defense strategy.
“The National Defense Strategy talks about great power competition,” said Army Chief of Staff General James McConville. “He’s talking about great power competition, but great power competition doesn’t necessarily mean great power conflict. The way you avoid conflict is through force. The way you avoid conflict is through strong relationships. with partners and allies in the region and working together.”
McCarthy cited the service’s emphasis on annual Pacific Pathways joint military exercises, held in Thailand and the Philippines, where the United States trains with partner nations. McCarthy and McConville have had their eyes on the region since serving as the Army’s undersecretary and vice chief of staff, respectively. They previously met with U.S. Commander Indo-Pacific Adm. Philip Davidson to discuss operations, plans and capabilities, particularly what he needs to maintain a competitive advantage over nearby threats.
“There will be no greater deterrent than boots on the pitch, training side by side with allies,” McCarthy said.
In Defender 2020, the United States will deploy a division-sized force to six European nations, the largest US deployment of its size in more than two decades. The deployment will coincide with other annual exercises in Europe to increase readiness and interoperability by mobilizing a large combat unit to respond to a crisis. The exercise actually began on January 23 with the rail transportation of equipment to the ports of Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas, as well as Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“Standing with our allies and partners shows strength,” McConville said. “And Defender 2020 is an exercise that allows us to practice, to rehearse our ability to bring forces to Europe and to work closely with our partners and that is what is going to happen in the next two months.
McConville noted another move that could bolster U.S. forces: Joint chiefs of staff are supporting a joint inter-service command and control system called the Joint Joint Command and Control System. The system will coordinate the fight in several areas. The system would standardize data and deliver it faster to troops in the field. McConville said the Army was close to signing an agreement in April to establish the system.
The military is working on an integrated air and missile defense combat command system, or IBCS, that will share sensors among different gunners, ranging from Avengers missile systems to Patriot missiles. The military is also experimenting with high-energy laser and microwave technology to boost its air and missile defense capabilities.
“Some of the problem sets that we see in the future range from unmanned aerial systems or swarms,” McConville said. “You don’t want to fire Patriot missiles at small UAS (unmanned aircraft systems). So you have to find sets of solutions to that and then on the other side you have hypersonic missiles that you have to deal with Which really comes down to a multi-layered kind of defense that chooses the right weapon system at the right distance and protects the forces.”