JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX –
“Homeland defense is our number one priority.” Artificial Intelligence, high-altitude balloons used for surveillance, even social media applications like TikTok are examples of the emerging uses of technology that can disrupt this priority for the Army and Department of Defense.
What are military leaders doing about these advancements, and what does it mean for the future of the American homeland and its defense?
Recently, the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army sponsored a project to understand better the Army’s current and future homeland defense challenges. The primary goal is to focus on emerging technological advancements by bringing together military and civilian subject matter experts to find ways to protect and enhance homeland defense efforts now and through 2040.
U.S. Army North took the helm of this challenge, creating the Integration, Experimentation & Assessments Division within the command and tasked them with developing a series of workshops centered around the Future of Homeland Defense Project. The first portion of the project will last approximately one year and consist of ten workshops, each with a different focus area.
“We have been asked through the Army, as the land component to U.S. Northern Command, to conduct a deeper dive into homeland defense,” said Robert Naething, Deputy to the Commanding General of U.S. Army North. “In the past, great leaders have gone to incredible lengths to prepare their militaries for war. They often created formidable forces tailor-made to fight and win wars based on their most recent experiences.”
Naething continued to say that environmental conditions, including new technologies and changing fighting methods, often made those militaries obsolete before the next war began.
“We are focusing on how to change this dynamic and look at the future within the homeland instead, creating solutions to address those challenges,” he said.
This is not a stand-alone effort; it is tied in closely and will inform the ongoing work of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Army Futures Command, and U.S. Northern Command.
To foster collaboration while educating participants in as many areas as possible, Army North pulled subject matter experts across the participating Army commands, the private sector, academia, and partners from other government agencies to create a ‘think tank’ environment.
The workshops will look at key areas of interest such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, behavioral science and even fields such as quantum physics, electronic warfare, and nanotechnology, to name a few.
“This project will help us develop a broader understanding of the challenges, threats, and opportunities that unprecedented technological developments are creating for Army North, U.S. Northern Command, and the Army,” stated Anthony Volino, U.S. Army North Integration, Experimentation & Assessments Division Chief.
To aid this homeland defense ‘think tank,’ the command structured the conversations and workshops using Army Design Methodology to explore homeland defense through structured environmental, problem, and solution frames. These frames will identify and establish inputs and outputs relevant to homeland defense, allowing Army North staff to create a comprehensive “Future of Homeland Defense Report.”
The report will aim to make actionable recommendations to the Army and U.S. Northern Command enabling domestic resiliency and victory in future conflicts. It will also identify where the Army and U.S. Northern Command need to focus priorities like funding, manning, and training in the coming years to ensure they stay ahead of emerging threats and aggressors.
Volino used the example of how the cannon could make high castle walls obsolete to highlight the importance of looking ahead. He mentioned that history has demonstrated how a lack of information and imagination while looking at the future security environment can lead to unforeseen consequences. What would have happened if someone had the foresight to think of the invention of the cannon before they invested in higher castle walls?
“Using the Army’s Design Methodology forces us to take a step back and not come up with an immediate solution,” Naething told participants in the initial workshop. “We are taking our time to pull in the top experts across a wide range of fields to gain a deep understanding of the future environment and challenges in the homeland. We will then use this understanding to offer solutions tailored to the future fight."
He mentioned that if we do this right over the long term, this work by Army North will tremendously impact the Army, DoD, and the nation.
“People want to make an impact, and this group has a real opportunity to do just that,” said Naething.
Alongside Army North, some of the commands participating in The Future of Homeland Defense Project are Army Futures Command, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Headquarters, Department of the Army.
“This is not a new priority for Army North, the Army at large, or the Secretary of the Army,” Volino stated. “We need to remain in a place where we can enable campaigning and collaboration as we look ahead to detect, deter and defeat our aggressors through an integrated, whole-of-government approach to homeland defense.”