Small Wars Journal

Expeditionary Solutions to Achieving Overmatch

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Expeditionary Solutions to Achieving Overmatch

Bradford L. Gaddy

As the Army continues to draw down, the reality of an uncertain and complex future environment prevents the traditional post-war reset from occurring.  Today’s Army leaders face the challenge of balancing the force during an uncertain fiscal environment amidst an unprecedented velocity of global instability.  The nation’s strategic security guidance directs military leaders to focus on Phase Zero Shaping Operations beginning with the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region as the Army simultaneously resets the force.1  Meanwhile Army forces remain committed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and globally responsive to regions around the world. 

Army leaders face major decisions on how the force will provide security force assistance, employment of a new sustainable readiness model, and reduction of forces and funding.  To assist in providing trained and ready forces during complex times, the Army must demonstrate flexibility in the near-term.  The future operational environment will require expeditionary forces capable of operating across a full range of military operations.2  To make formations leaner, more expeditionary, and capable of achieving overmatch through 2025, the Army must accomplish the following initiatives:  first, design organizations modeled to achieve overmatch at the squad echelon; second, tailor Army mission command (MC) systems and Soldier equipment for austere environments; and third, institutionalize and retain rapid fielding capabilities to the warfighter.   

Design Squad-Level Organizations

To make formations leaner, more expeditionary, and capable of achieving overmatch through 2025, the Army must design organizations modeled to achieve overmatch at the squad echelon. The Army Operation Concept (AOC) lists five characteristics of the future operational environment that will impact the Army:  enhanced velocity and momentum of human interactions and events; potential of overmatch; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; spread of advanced cyberspace and counter-space capabilities; and demographics and operations among populations in cities and in complex terrain.3  The Army must place an emphasis on enhancing squad-level capabilities to ensure formations are prepared to meet these challenges.  Strategic guidance requires expeditionary, scalable, and tailorable formations to respond rapidly to a complex operating environment.4  Maneuver companies provide the capability to develop and maintain the lowest level of MC of the future force; however, the squad is the lowest echelon of expeditionary maneuver and a critical aspect to achieving overmatch.  During an interview addressing combat effectiveness of the future force, the Chief of Staff, Army (CSA) stated, “The squad is the foundation of the decisive force.”5

“Overmatch is the application of capabilities or use of tactics in a way that renders an adversary unable to respond effectively.”6  In the future strategic environment, the accessibility to advanced technologies increases the advantage of enemy capabilities facing U.S. ground forces.  The Army faces the near-, mid-, and far-term challenge to achieve and maintain overmatch for the warfighter.  Over the last fourteen years, the Army force generation cycle consisted of a regimented timeline in preparation for brigade combat team (BCT) deployment.  Deployment to a combat training center (CTC) for armor brigade combat teams (ABCT), stryker BCTs (SBCT), and even infantry BCTs (IBCT) required such a significant amount of time, effort, and money, that any possibility of experiencing a rapid deployment was lost.

One essential element of the Army squad should be exposure to training scenarios that emulate the constantly changing operational environment (OE) of the future.  A solution to establish expeditionary readiness is to execute small unit emergency deployment readiness exercises (EDRE) into the CTC to assess the expeditionary capabilities.  The capability would require each BCT to provide one expeditionary-ready force consisting of a ready company task force capable of deploying in 24 hours and battalion task force ready in 96 hours.  

Deploying a smaller task-organization to a CTC allows for validation of critical tasks associated with supporting expeditionary maneuver in an austere environment.  Unit reliability on small-unit readiness, leaner deployment packages, and reliability on pre-positioned support packages are tasks that could be trained and validated without a full rotation of an entire BCT.     

Tailor MC and Equipment for Austere Environments

To make formations leaner, more expeditionary, and capable of achieving overmatch through 2025, the Army must tailor Army MC systems and Soldier equipment for austere environments.  The Army Capstone Concept (ACC) places emphasis on the Army’s requirement to deploy quickly to austere areas using scalable and tailored expeditionary force packages that complement other service capabilities.7  One such capability is the Army’s tactical communications network, which provides voice, video, and data communications from stationary and on-the-move positions.8  The capability provided during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq migrated on to large tactical operations centers (TOC) systems.  Some critical systems such as the tactical communications nodes (TCN), which provides the mobile network infrastructure at division, brigade, and battalion levels, is mounted on medium tactical vehicles. 

Whether facing future adversaries with anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) or conducting humanitarian assistant missions in a permissive environment, the Army must be able to rapidly project power from strategic distances in order to deter and engage adversaries.9  By focusing on leaner systems, the Army will reduce its dependency on C-17s while sustaining the usage of the operational C-130s for primary lift assets.  As the only service without its own strategic lift,”10 the Army will continue to rely heavily on the Air Force until the trend of designing robust MC systems reverses. 

During combat operations, units need the capability to rapidly establish a wireless CP that is light, easily transportable, and quick and simple to configure.  The TOCs used in Afghanistan and Iraq operations became larger with increased CP size, weight and power requirements (SWaP) based on the established Forward Operating Base (FOB) scenario.  Equipping units with a tailored CP option reduces manpower and equipment requirements allowing units to seamlessly transition into operations.11  Expeditionary MC teams will need secure voice, tactical chat, and limited secure data, while operating as the initial CP.  High frequency radios could provide long range/low power results capable of passing data and utilizing light-weight and low-profile antenna array options.    

In addition to tailoring MC, the Army should also focus on the following three initiatives to provide immediate solutions to build an expeditionary force:  provide mobility to the IBCT to enhance expeditionary maneuver; restructure the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to provide support to small tactical units; and enhance indirect fire capabilities at the company-level. 

The IBCT is designed to operate in complex terrain to include urban, mountainous, forest, subterranean, and jungle.12  The formation lacks mobility when conducting ground, air-land, or air assault missions, and the 1990’s High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) has limited capability to meet the demands of the future strategic environment.  During GWOT, the HMMWV was modified with armor in response to protection requirements generated by the Improvised Explosive Device (IED); however, that armor decreased mobility and sustainability, and limited transportability on Air Force C130s and Army CH47s and UH60s.   

One proposed solution to correct the deficiency is to add a task-organized set of light tactical vehicles (LTV) designated for expeditionary maneuver, similar to the theater provided mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles employed in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Mobility enhances the ability of a scalable force to conduct operations immediately upon arrival to an austere environment.  Infantry squads require the capability to conduct mounted movement along secondary roads and trails with an expeditionary combat load.  Additionally, transportability of the LTV in support of expeditionary maneuver is vital in a complex operational environment.13  Lighter vehicles provide options for expeditionary forces to remain agile and flexible on the battlefield while maximizing fixed and rotary wing support to accomplish a variety of missions.                  

In addition to providing mobility to expeditionary forces, LTVs provide the capability to support MC systems such as the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and deliver amplification to FM (frequency modulation) radios.14  During operations in austere locations, maneuver forces’ ability to maintain MC and situational awareness is critical.  In an effort decrease the overall weight of the expeditionary asset, only one out of four vehicles could be equipped with FBCB2. 

The modular capability of the LTV is another requirement to support expeditionary forces.  Providing LTVs in a complex environment provides the capability to mount crew-served weapons, carry an infantry squad, and secure the squad’s combat equipment.  A squad supported by a mounted machine gun enhances the lethality to the maneuver force and increases the ability to task-organize additional weapons, such as mortars.  An effective LTV also lightens the Soldier load by decreasing the weight of water, rations, and ammunition carried by the warfighter.  

Another solution to enable expeditionary maneuver while preventing overmatch is to provide UAS in support of the tactical squad.  UAS conduct a range of military missions including surveillance, reconnaissance, communications relay, and attack.15  The BCT use three RQ-7B Shadow UAS platoons to conduct intelligence gathering and to observe the operating environment, the company uses the RQ-11B Raven, but the battalion lacks authorized UAS, creating a gap.  The Army must provide authorizations for an UAS at battalion level for the Shadow or similar capability. 

Although the Raven is man-portable, authorized at the company level, and capable of operations down to platoon level, it cannot support extended operations.  The system consists of three payload sensors, a remote video terminal (RVT), and a ground control unit.  The Raven is limited to 1,200 feet above ground level and provides limited options in payload sensors, range, and communications relay capability.16  A UAS that is easily visible during daylight operations, along with a limited range, is not ideal in austere operations.   

The Shadow provides a more capable platform operating at up to 15,000 feet above ground level, with a 5-6 hour flight duration, variety of payloads, and range critical to the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission at the BCT level.  The Shadow platoon’s organization consist of four Shadow UAS, two Ground Control Stations, two Ground Data Terminals, a Portable Ground Station, a Portable Data Terminal, four air vehicles, a Ground Data Terminal, a portable Ground Control Station, and four Remote Video Terminals.  Additionally, the system includes six HMMWVs with trailers to transport the equipment along with a 22 personnel to operate and maintain the system.17       

While the Raven and Shadow provide the needed capability for a BCT conventional force, they must be task-organized to support rapid deployment to battalion and company maneuver operations on short notice to austere environments.  In the near-term, a section solution of two Shadows to support echelons below BCT would reduce the amount of required equipment and transportability requirements, provide redundant system availability, and provide the expeditionary maneuver commander an initial ISR capability.  In the long-term, there must be UAS organic to the battalion.  The Navy and Marine Corps are developing this capability now,18 and that future joint solution should decrease the need for a vertical takeoff and landing area while decreasing the amount of equipment and personnel requirements to operate the system.   

The Army’s Vice Chief of Staff (VCSA) echoed the need to provide lighter and more capable equipment to the force during a recent visit to the Program Executive Office-Soldier (PEO-S).  During the visit, GEN Allyn received a brief on efforts to reduce Soldier load while increasing effectiveness.19  Mortars, for example, provide a significant amount of firepower system in an austere environment.  60mm, 81mm, or 120mm mortar systems are organic to the ABCT, SBCT, and IBCT in some combination.  The commonalities of the systems make the weapons ideal for expeditionary operations.  Recent improvements in the 81mm mortar system decreased the weight by 12 pounds while maintaining the durability, rate of fire, and range of the previous system.20

Institutionalize and Retain Rapid Fielding Capabilities

To make formations leaner, more expeditionary, and capable of achieving overmatch through 2025, the Army must institutionalize and retain rapid fielding capabilities to the warfighter.  The SECARMY emphasized the importance of equipment modernization in his 2014 Top Priorities by stating, “The Army will maintain critical research and development capability, especially in science and technology.”21  Leveraging non-material solutions for commercial and government off-the-shelf products is one method to ensure the warfighter is prepared during a period of fiscal austerity in a rapidly changing and austere environment.  The Rapid Equipping Force (REF), Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) of the PEO-S are programs that must be sustained to ensure future expeditionary success in equipping the warfighter.

The mission of REF is to harness current and emerging technologies to provide immediate solutions to the urgent challenges of the Army forces deployed globally.22  The organization combines aspects of requirements identification, technology development, procurement, training, evaluation and sustainment to anticipate warfighter requirements and deliver solutions in less than 180 days.  The REF Expeditionary Solution Team provides a structure capable of embedding with units to solve urgent warfighter support in austere environments. 

Overseas contingency operations (OCO) dollars funded REF’s rapid support to the warfighter during the height of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, REF needs baseline budget funding to sustain requests of units outside of a combat zone.  Today, only Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa have forward REF presence (REF Presentation).  Although REF’s realignment with Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) provides a long-term plan for stabilization, the program needs funding to maintain the capability to support an agile, innovative, and adaptive force.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan REF interacted with units during deployments.  COL Steven Sliwa, REF Director, emphasized the importance of adapting to future operations by stating, “REF is going to take an anticipatory approach to identifying emerging requirements to become a predictive force for challenges in Korean or the Trans-Sahara.”23  As such, the Army should incorporate REF training prior to deployment and force managers should leverage the REF 10-Liner to request tactical solutions.

Another solution to retain the REF capability is to consolidate like organizations, such as the Joint Improvised Explosive Device and Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), and Network Integration Evaluation (NIE).  All of the programs rapidly equip, test, and field solutions to the warfighter and provide institution knowledge from supporting combat operations; however, the programs face cuts or elimination due to fiscal constraints.

While REF provides immediate solutions, PEO-S uses the SEP to evaluate, test and type classify prototypes or commercial items for small units.24  The program uses a low-risk, low-cost approach to pursue lighter, more lethal weapons systems for Soldiers.  SEP received $10 million a year in 2013 and 2014 while evaluating nearly 50 prototypes or commercial items annually.25  This funding should be increased to $30 million a year, primarily in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) dollars, to save money over the long-term by introducing mature products at “Milestone C” of the acquisition process.  Combining REF and SEP is the best solution, as this would offer both the authority to document requirements and the capability to field equipment.      


To make formations leaner, more expeditionary, and capable of achieving overmatch through 2025, the Army must accomplish the following initiatives:  first, design organizations modeled to achieve overmatch at the squad echelon; second, tailor Army MC systems and Soldier equipment for austere environments; and third, institutionalize and retain rapid fielding capabilities to the warfighter.  Current organization and readiness standards make it difficult for Army forces to effectively deploy today as an expeditionary force.  In the near-term, Army must leverage scalable and tailorable expeditionary solutions while far-term concepts and technologies are developed.      

End Notes

1. Obama, Barrack H. National Security Strategy. Washington, DC: The White House,   February 2015.

2. Huggins, James L., LTG, U.S. Army G3. "HQDA Execution Order 231-14 (Force 2025 and Beyond)." Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, July, 2014.

3. U.S. Department of the Army. The U.S. Army Operating Concept; Win in a Complex World 2020-2040. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, October 31, 2014.

4. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, 1.

5. Zaffke, Jedidiah M. "Squad Foundation of the Decisive Force (SFDF)" Briefing slides. Fort Benning, GA: Maneuver Center of Excellence, February 19, 2014.

6. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, 11.

7. U.S. Department of the Army. The U.S. Army Capstone Concept. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-0. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, December 19, 2012.

8. Program Executive Officer Command Control Communication-Tactical Home Page. (accessed June 27, 2015). 

9. TRADOC Pam 525-3-0, 17.

10. Briggs, David D. Strategic Deployment Requirements for an Expeditionary Army. Strategy Research Project. (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, March 30, 2007) 4.

11. Program Executive Officer Command Control Communication-Tactical Home Page. (accessed June 27, 2015).

12. FM 3-96, 15.

13. Nicholson, John W., 82nd Commanding General. "Statement of Operational Need for Enhanced Mobility for Airborne Infantry Forces in Support of the Global Response Force Mission." Fort Bragg, NC, July 25, 2013.

14. Jennings, Nathan. “Bringing Mobility to the Infantry Brigade Combat Team” Military Review (November-December 2014:  p22-27) 22.

15. Gudmens, Jeffery J. “Unmanned Aerial Systems: What We’ve Learned Through Experimentation” Infantry 105, no. 3 (July-September 2014:  p11-15) 14.

16. Gudmens, 11.

17. FM 3-04.155, C-4.

18. Gudmens, 14.

19. Army Vice Chief of Staff visits PEO Soldier, urges lightening Soldier Load.  In the News by Dawson." Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, GA (accessed June 25, 2015) 1.

20. Snyder, John B. “Mortar Redesign Helps Infantrymen Become More Lethal, Safe.” Infantry 103, no. 1 (January-March 2014):  p4.

21. McHugh, John M. Secretary of the Army. "Secretary of the Army Top Priorities." October 30, 2014.

22. "U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force" Overview Briefing slides. Fort Belvoir, VA, October 20, 2014.

23. Parsons, Dan. "Future of Rapid Equipping Force Remains in Doubt" National Defense Magazine, December 2013.

24. Project Manager Soldier Warrior (PEO Soldier) Soldier Enhancement Program. (accessed June 19, 2015). 

25. Kirby, Andrew, MAJ, U.S. Army, APM SEP, PEO Soldier.  Telephone interview by author, July 10 and 12, 2015.

About the Author(s)

Major Bradford L. Gaddy, U.S. Army, currently serves as a Force Integration officer in XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  MAJ Gaddy previously served with the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Division, and the 82nd Airborne Division.  He holds a B.A. from Fayetteville State University and is a graduate of the Functional Area-50 Force Management course.