The deputy commander of Army Futures Command said Tuesday that the service may need more of the National Guard's capabilities in the early days of a fight on future battlefields.
Force posture is very important to multi-domain operations -- the concept the Army is developing to fight on land, sea and air, as well as in space and cyberspace -- and "the Guard will have to be available to be part of rotational forces, as they have for years now," Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy commander of AFC and director of its Futures and Concepts Center, told an audience at the Brookings institution.
In addition, Army leaders will likely have to "cross-level" or shift assets from the National Guard to the active force to ensure forward-deployed units have the capabilities they need to conduct a campaign against a potential adversary such as Russia, he said.
"When we lay out the force package in Europe ... there are a number of units that are right now resident in the Guard that we need in the contact layer," Wesley said.
"So one of the things that the chief of staff, I think, will have to deal with in the ensuing years is to what degree will we have to cross-level -- take some force out of the active force, put it in the Guard, and take some out of the Guard and put it in the active force," he said.
It will take years to analyze this, but Wesley said one asset which will likely be needed sooner is the Guard's significant amount of combat bridge-building assets.
"If you have to conduct a campaign in, say, Europe, you would need those assets much more quickly than we have now," he said.
But multi-domain operations aren't all about penetrating an enemy's anti-access defenses and exploiting the gap with fast-moving maneuver forces, Wesley explained.
He said the Army, along with the other service branches, is developing multi-domain ops to defend the influence the United States has in Europe and Asia.
"We are in a strategic defense," Wesley said. "We like the status quo because we want the ability to continue to thrive."
To maintain that, the military must aggressively prepare for a conflict with Russia or China, two potential adversaries that have invested heavily in cyber and other technologies to counter the U.S. military's maneuver capability, he said.
"And to the degree that we demonstrate that we are very capable to defeat fait accompli attack, [that] forces our adversaries to recalculate any intentions they may have had, such that you change their behavior, which by definition is a defensive action," Wesley said.
"I think we have been very clear on some very tangible problems that must be solved … [and] absent of solving them, we will see the influence of the United States and our partners and allies wane in the ensuing years if we don't," he said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.