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Army Challenges AOL Defense On Competition With Marines, Tech Threats

Posted by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on

In a conference call this afternoon to discuss the new Army Capstone Concept with reporters, Maj. Gen. Bill Hix made a special point of rebutting two recent articles in Breaking Defense.

Thursday’s article suggested the new Capstone Concept’s pledge to create unspecified “new formations… as early entry forces” might trespass on territory long claimed by the Marines. But the two services complement and consult with each other, rather than compete, said Hix, director of Concept Development and Learning at the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC).

“Of course, you’re the not the only one [to raise] this issue of are we somehow causing friction with the Marine Corps, competing with the Marine Corps,” Hix said, directly addressing Breaking Defense. “That’s not the case. We work very closely with the Marine Corps on developing all of our concepts.”

“This is an Army document… but we have shared this with our partners,” Hix told reporters. “We’ve been completely transparent and engaged.” The Army Capstone Concept fits in the larger context of inter-service thinking like the Joint Staff’s Capstone Concept for Joint Operations and the Army-Marine concept for Gaining And Maintaining Operational Access (GAMOA) .

“We bring a set of capabilities to the table that complement the Marine Corps,” Hix said. “The Marine Corps is afloat; they provide the combatant commanders with a great capability.”

The Army, obviously, doesn’t have a dedicated seaborne expeditionary force. But overall, Hix went on, “we operate in greater depth,” mustering far more combat troops and providing the joint force with support functions from overland logistics to port operations to communications networks.

While Army doesn’t live on ships and could never replicate the Marines’ symbiotic connection with the Navy, that doesn’t mean it can’t operate from the sea. “Let me get my little history chart,” said Hix, pulling out a reference: The Army has done 20 major amphibious operations in its history, he told Breaking Defense, and 15 combat airborne operations — an alternative approach to “early entry” — since the end of World War II.

As the conference call wrapped up and reporters had asked their last question, Hix said, “I have one for you, Sydney.”

Citing Breaking Defense’s story this morning that suggested future adversaries might catch up to or even surpass American technology — a topic raised by several participants at a recent Army “Unified Quest” seminar — Hix said that that “I think we saw it as a cautionary tale,” not a prophecy of doom. The US shouldn’t take its advantages for granted as technology spreads ever more rapidly around the globe, he said, but potential foes can’t simply copy American innovations. “They need to have the educational basis and the other infrastructure foundations to be able to use it,” Hix said. “Possession is not 9/10ths of the law.”

Of all the services, it’s the Army that has the most to figure out as it moves from all-consuming counterinsurgency to preparing for an uncertain future. Hix and other officers are thinking hard, and Breaking Defense will stay engaged in 2013.

What do you think?