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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2021

USACAPOC(A) and interoperability in MDO at JWA

By Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)

At an annual event dedicated to force modernization and the development of multi-domain operations (MDO), U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) leaders came together with other leaders from across the United States and several allied nations, discussing Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) 21, which began June 14 in Hawaii, Colorado, and Washington.

Planned and executed by the Joint Modernization Command, JWA is designed to test innovation and the interoperability of developmental concepts, technologies, and capabilities utilized by Senior Leaders and Soldiers, and gather feedback for future development.

USACAPOC(A) leaders, already well versed on the topic of multi-domain capabilities, found JWA an important platform to increase development of expertise and cooperation.

"JWA is a campaign of learning,” said Col. Straus Scantlin, director, Strategic Initiatives Group, USACAPOC(A). “It will lead USACAPOC(A) and the USAR down a road of innovation, lessons learned, and success. The innovation, with partners inside and outside of the US military, will have moments of failure that provide invaluable experiences to inform future capability development along this campaign of learning. Those invaluable lessons will help us refocus efforts, and will be part of the assessment to build a training and doctrinal process designed to result in improved success for the development of future structure, training, and to build the increased capabilities necessary to enable the U.S. military and our partners to succeed in competition and win in conflict.”

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey C. Coggin, commanding general, USACAPOC(A), outlined the opportunities to excel for USACAPOC(A) Soldiers under his command with participation in the exercises supporting the JWA.

“USACAPOC(A) provided vital capabilities involved in the JWA and one of the important prospects that’s coming out of our experience this time is setting the foundation for taking part next year and expanding on our capabilities in an efficient and effective interoperable, modernized construct under new operational concepts such as Dominant Convergence,” explained Coggin.

“As we move forward and increase our JWA presence and commitment, we see this as an opportunity to exercise and test USACAPOC(A)’s Operation Dominant Convergence. Simply speaking, an opportunity to employ our CA [civil affairs], PsyOp [Psychological Operations], IO [Information Operations], MI [Military Intelligence] and our other capabilities within USACAPOC(A), working together to provide support to the units and commands that are taking part in the Joint Warfighter Assessment,” he concluded.

With the focus of the JWA scenario as that of challenging a near-peer adversary in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility, USACAPOC(A) was a natural fit for support even as the role expanded from previous iterations of the JWA.

“JWA will likely ultimately shape everything we do within USACAPOC(A) as multi-domain operations is further refined and we determine our role within it,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Schmidt, G35, USACAPOC(A), and lead JWA exercise planner for USACAPOC(A). “USACAPOC(A) has an opportunity to use JWA as a venue to train at echelons above brigade, a shift in scale from our support in the past,” continued Schmidt. “Typically, we support brigades and below at the various combat training centers, but not exercises focused at the Division, Corps, or Theater echelons.”

“This year USACAPOC(A) provided augmentation to the Theater Information Advantage Element (TIAE) organizational concept from the Cyber Center of Excellence,” said Schmidt. “The idea behind the TIAE is to converge theater aligned information related capabilities across the operational environment to support decision making, protect friendly information, and affect relevant actor perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors in order to gain and maintain information advantage.”

USACAPOC(A) provided Civil Affairs capability out of the 351st Civil Affairs Command and Psychological Operations support from the 7th Psychological Operations Group to support the TIAE and its subordinate formations at the Corps and Division levels.

With his focus on operating in the information environment, Schmidt was able to use JWA as part of the experimental assessment to maneuver his formations and target supporting capabilities efficiently to maximize advantage for the commander on the ground during the exercise.

“The take away from JWA is that gaining and maintaining information advantage is difficult with current authorities and technology,” said Schmidt. “Since JWA is an exercise for experimentation, it is the perfect venue to test and evaluate the Dominant Convergence Team concept. We are able to task organize our formations to provide a combined capability to the operational force as needed.”

JWA was also the ideal proving ground for the USACAPOC(A) Commanding General as he tested his command focus and ideology to meet the future needs of the force.

“One of my priorities is changing the organizational culture at USACAPOC(A) to where we as a command look at ways to work together, to fight together, and to get out of our stovepipes, our traditional social and doctrinal limitations,” defined Coggin. “These include our Civil Affairs, our Psychological Operations, and our Information Operation communities and we need to understand the fact that when we are working together in our organization and outside our organization … we are have to work together, and we need to understand how our interoperable capabilities can empower our effectiveness and relevance to the future needs of the Force.”

That focus on breaking down “stovepipes of excellence” to combine capabilities for effect aligns with the vision of Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane, Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division, who reminded JWA attendees that “The U.S. Army will always fight as combined force alongside allies and partners, so it's important we continue learning and improving our human, technical and procedural interoperability as a single entity.”

According to Scantlin, the ability to achieve advantages in the information domain is critical to successful deployment of USACAPOC(A)’s capabilities. Relying on theater-level sensing and understanding of the people, information, knowledge, and networks used by an adversary and civilian population in a contested area will enable USACAPOC(A) to focus on supporting Joint Task Force commanders ability to achieve their objectives without total reliance on traditional kinetic military capabilities.

“I think the biggest lesson learned for USACAPOC(A) is that relying on the same way of doing things that has been successful in the past will not be successful in the future,” emphasized Scantlin. “We as an organization have to break down our stovepipes of excellence and progress from occasionally coming together as cross-functional teams to reorganize and train each other as a trans-functional team. Instead of each of us bringing our specific skills to a problem as a cross-functional team as has taken place in the past, we need to bring our skills to each other, becoming more than we currently are. Only by, as representatives of interoperable capabilities, transforming each other and developing new, combined skill sets, will we be able to change and improve.”

“We’ve got a lot of great capabilities and there is a lot of institutional knowledge at USACAPOC(A). I think it’s important, in my position as advocate for USACAPOC(A), to ensure combatant commands and others in the DOD know how we are building our capabilities to meet the needs of the MDO and the future operational environment,” explained Coggin. “JWA as a platform offers multiple opportunities for USACAPOC(A) in that it gives us the opportunity to exercise our skills in a scenario setting, converging our skills, and at the same time it gives the greater Army force and the joint force the opportunity to utilize these skills and these capabilities in what they’re doing.”

With JWA exercises helping the Army evaluate emerging concepts, integrate new technologies, and promote interoperability between the Army, other services, and our multinational partners, it’s exactly the environment needed to break out of traditional roles and collaborate.

“If a concept works, and is successful and effective, we need to focus in on that,” said Coggin. “If a concept doesn’t work, we need to adapt and learn from what was ineffective or failed. We’re not writing doctrine, we aren’t creating an organization or unit structure. It’s all about capabilities, and, in turn, these capabilities are empowering what the greater force is doing. Those that write the doctrine, that create the structure, they’ll see this and take that next step.”