Balancing Force Modernization with Threat Evolution

General John Murray
U.S. Army Futures Command

From Armor & Mobility, October 2019 Issue

General Murray was commissioned as an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army upon graduation from the Ohio State University in 1982. Throughout his career, General Murray has served in leadership positions and commanded from Company through Division, with various staff assignments at the highest levels of the Army.

General Murray has held numerous command positions. His command assignments include: Commanding General Joint Task Force-3; Deputy Commanding General – Support for U.S. Forces Afghanistan; Commander Bagram Airfield; Commanding General 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Commander, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas while serving in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM; Commander, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany; Commander, C Company, 1-12th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Carson, Colorado.

Previously, he was the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, in the Pentagon; Director, Force Management, the Pentagon; Assistant Deputy Director for Joint Training, J-7, Joint Staff, Suffolk, Virginia; Director, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, United States Joint Forces Command, Suffolk, Virginia; Deputy Commanding General (Maneuver), 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; Deputy Commanding General (Maneuver), Multi-National Division-Baghdad OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, Iraq; G-3 (Operations), III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas; Chief of Staff, III Corps and Fort Hood, Fort Hood, Texas; C-3, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, Iraq; G-3 (Operations), 1st Infantry Division, United States Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany; Chief, Space Control Protection Section, J-33, United States Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; S-3(Operations), later Executive Officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; Chief, Plans, G-1, III Corps and Fort Hood, Fort Hood, Texas.

General Murray’s awards and decorations include: the Distinguished Service Medal w/ Oak Leaf Cluster, the Defense Superior Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

GEN John Murray, Commander, U.S. Army Futures Command, spoke recently to A&M regarding his top priorities as the Army continues modernizing, targeting operational systems for improvement.

A&M: What are some of AFC’s primary focus areas as the command oversees broad force enhancements?

GEN Murray: The aim of the Department of Defense’s newly-activated U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) is to provide concepts, capabilities and organizational structures for future soldiers to dominate a future battlefield. The command works closely with the eight Cross-Functional Teams, or CFTs, that focus on top modernization priorities, those CFTs include: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV), Air and Missile Defense, Future Vertical Lift (FVL), Army Network, Synthetic Training Environment, Assured Position and Navigation, and Soldier Lethality.

A&M: What are some program priorities that you see as critical to future force readiness?

GEN Murray: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has made it clear that the ability to grow new systems over long periods is a top priority.

The Bradley concept went on the drawing board in the 1960s but didn’t come into the formations until the early 1980s. It has been incrementally upgraded for more than four decades to continue service.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV, must do the same. It will arrive with advanced capabilities but must continue to be upgraded and adapted. Specifically, its onboard power must be able to be increased as power needs on the future battlefield will be greater than they are today.

That’s the one thing we know that’s going to go up is you’re going to hang more stuff on a vehicle and it’s going to take more and more power. So the ability for that vehicle to generate more onboard power was the number one growth requirement. Realistically, the Army will be able to field about a brigade’s worth of NGCVs each year under current budgets. That means 20 years before all Army ABCTs are fielded. But version two of the NGCV won’t wait on version one in the fielding calendar. New iterations will fill the inventory as the vehicle advances.

A&M: In terms of Multi-Domain Operations, how is AFC working to adapt Army culture to the concept?

GEN Murray: The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), 2028 is the first step in this doctrinal evolution. MDO describes how U.S. Army forces, as part of the Joint Force, will militarily compete, penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit our adversaries in the future. It will start to drive how we’re organized. It will start to drive the leader development process. It will start to drive the facilities that we’ll need to either be capitalized or built new.

Past efforts at radical change to Army platforms, such as failed efforts to effectively field the Comanche helicopter, Crusader self-propelled artillery and Future Combat Systems brigade-level manned-unmanned vehicle teams, faced a number of challenges that led to their cancellations.

The current push has the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept of future warfare driving the individual programs, cross-functional teams and the futures command. Part of the past failures involved messaging. When the Army went to Congress and said it needed a cannon that fired twice as far, the explanation was because it was better to fire twice as far. By pointing to the near-peer threats and realistic scenarios on actual terrain such as regional flare-ups with China and Russia, there’s more understanding of why the Army needs what it needs and why it’s important.

The use in recent years of a continuing resolution to intermittently fund Pentagon priorities rather than a full, annual budget will have impact on Army priorities. The Army will continue to prioritize readiness over future commitments. That means if budgets are delayed or they dwindle, the projected timelines will shift out longer. Also, quantities of items that the Army needs will take a hit. Anticipated quantities of vehicles, tactical kit, weapons and necessary munitions for both current operations and stockpiles may be reduced.

A&M: In terms of the Army’s view of acceptable risk, how do you assess as needed here?

GEN Murray: The Army needs to change its culture of addressing risk. The core values and initiatives the Army must remain the same. But what will have to change is the Army’s culture of risk aversion. In the past few decades, anytime something failed in acquisition, a new regulation, instruction or law was put in place. That’s resulted in a maze of regulations that slow-walk items through development and discourage risk taking.

The first true test will come when something fails. If the Army or Congress crushes the responsible individual or program then they’ll never change the risk-averse Army culture. The Army must better communicate what it does and why it does it.

A&M: As new technology arises, how can the Army create a culture of openness to investing in future capability?

GEN Murray: The Army’s newly acquired Integrated Visual Augmentation System will blend augmented reality, night vision, way-finding and targeting information much like a jet fighter pilot’s helmet but in an infantryman’s goggles.

As artificial intelligence, or AI, becomes more prevalent, ultimately the American people will decide what is the ethical application of AI and what is not. The military-to-industry and military-to-civilian conversation is important.

Other countries are leading AI implementation on the battlefield. The U.S. public needs to understand the threats and uses of AI and other advanced tech. The previous Army strategy, which was delivered to Congress last year, was more focused on materiel solutions. However, the upcoming doctrine will drive the Army towards more of a holistic solution as opposed to just materiel. Specifically, the Army will be focused on “DOTMLP,” or Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, and Personnel and Facilities. The new doctrine addresses how the service plans to operate against adversaries who engage in provocative behavior in a gray area that doesn’t quite classify as conflict. These adversaries have studied U.S. capabilities, and have developed equipment and operating concepts that threaten the U.S.’ long-standing overmatch capability.