The leaders of the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces have offered their response to the Air Force and Navy's Air-Sea Battle with an exclusive task force of their own: Strategic Landpower.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos and Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations forces, each signed a white paper released May 13 that outlines their plans to ensure the nation's investment in its land warfare forces doesn't waver in the face of budget cuts and a national defense strategy that emphasizes the Pacific.
Odierno, Amos and McRaven have listened to their sister service leaders explain to Congress how Air-Sea Battle is the right operating concept to respond to emerging threats in the Asia-Pacific region. The three have similarly watched as the Air Force and the Navy have seen more modernization programs survive under recent budget pressures.
Air-Sea Battle is a buzz word that has echoed throughout Pentagon halls for the past few years. It's an operating concept to develop a joint force designed to penetrate anti-access/area denial scenarios that the U.S. military expect to likely face against potential conflicts with China or North Korea.
Air Force and Navy brass have used Air-Sea Battle to defend such projects as the next generation bomber and Ohio-class replacement submarines. Meanwhile, Army and Marine Corps officials have watched top priorities such as the Ground Combat Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle get delayed.
Ground force leaders appear on the defensive any time the prospect of the Pacific pivot is raised. Odierno often resorts to pointing out in his speeches and testimony before Congress that seven of the world's largest armies call the Pacific home.
Offering a land warfare counter point to Air-Sea Battle seemed like a likely progression. In November 2012, Odierno announced plans to create the Strategic Landpower Task Force. The white paper titled "Strategic Landpower: Winning the Clash of Wills" is the first major policy offering from the task force.
Odierno, Amos and McRaven chose to emphasize the "human domain" as the key determining factor in future conflicts.
"In a word, the success of future strategic initiatives and the ability of the U.S. to shape a peaceful and prosperous global environment will rest more and more on our ability to understand, influence, or exercise control within the 'human domain,'" according to the white paper.
The "human domain" is defined for the purposes of this white paper as the "physical, cultural and social environments" that exist within a conflict. Each leader felt strong enough about the human domain's influence that they recommended the Pentagon consider adopting it as a "doctrinal term and the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMILPF) implications."
Army, Marine and Special Operations leaders have observed the human domain dictate success in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past ten years. The ground forces own a unique perspective and ability to shape the human domain in future conflicts, according to the white paper.
"What all three have in common is that their purposes and forces intersect in the land domain, and a recognition that, although their problem is clear, rigorous study and analysis is required to translate emerging understanding and adapt ten years of war into effective military capabilities that achieve both human and physical objectivities in the future," the white paper stated.
Odierno, Amos and McRaven expect the influence of the human domain to grow.
"What we know and project about the future operating environment tells us that the significance of the 'human domain' in future conflict is growing, not diminished," the service leaders wrote.
The Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations leadership didn't fail to acknowledge the importance of the Navy and Air Force "both as a deterrent to aggression and in military engagement," according to the white paper.
"Still, those efforts must be complemented by forward engaged and creatively employed soldiers, Marines, and Special Operations Forces, as it signals a high level of American commitment to its partners and allies," Odierno, Amos and McRaven wrote.
The three four-stars warned that cutting too deeply into the coffers of the land forces at times of peace is a common mistake made throughout history.
"Historically as we have come out of war we have significantly reduced our capacity to operate on land, without adequately accounting for what one risks by doing so," the white paper stated.