USAF, Army Forced to Cancel First Multi-Domain Battle Exercise Due to Shutdown

Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes speaks at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25, 2018. Staff photo by Amy McCullough.

The recent government shutdown forced Air Combat Command and the US Army Training and Doctrine Command to cancel the first of four tabletop exercises meant to determine how the two services will fight together in future conflicts.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., ACC boss Gen. Mike Holmes said the shutdown and repeated continuing resolutions will have a lasting impact on the service because it prevents the Air Force from planning and “working for the future.” In addition to the tabletop exercise, Holmes said he also had to cancel a squadron commander course because people could not travel during the shutdown.

“So, as I change out commands with people this summer that impacts my ability to do that,” said Holmes, adding the command will work with the Army to reschedule the first tabletop exercise, which he said will focus on how the two services will fight together in a multi-domain battle.

Holmes said peer adversaries are increasingly using communication tools to get a better awareness of the battlefield. Today’s battlefield, he said, no longer has any boundaries, there are no hiding places, and there are no sanctuaries where US troops can go to prepare for the battle.

“We have to have a new way of talking about the battlefield together,” said Holmes. Though he emphasized the United States is still a superior fighting force, Holmes said the military tends to “work together best when we can at least contemplate defeat.”

The ACC/TRADOC experiments will run parallel to the multi-domain command and control experiments the Air Force plans to conduct beginning this fall. The Air Force-specific experiments are part of the chief of staff’s MDC2 focus area, led by Brig. Gen. Chance Saltzman, and will focus specifically on “how the Air Force will bring multi-domain tools together and make the command and control work to support that within the Air Force,” said Holmes. However, he noted some of the same players will participate in both sets of experiments.