Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Army chief: Time to prepare for urban war

The U.S. Army needs to better prepare to fight in megacities, said Gen. Mark Milley, the service’s chief of staff, on Tuesday.

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The U.S. Army needs to better prepare to fight in megacities, said Gen. Mark Milley, the service’s chief of staff, on Tuesday.

Speaking at New America’s conference on the Future of War, Gen. Milley said he believes that this represents “a fundamental shift” coming in how the United States fights. “We’re not in it yet, but we can see the previews” in some recent fighting we have seen in places like “Aleppo, Fallujah, Mosul,” he said.

“This has huge implications” for the Army, he said. One major change will be smaller units operating in networks. This likely will require having “more mature, more seasoned leaders at lower levels.” But, he added, this doesn’t mean that the future Army will be “special forces on steroids.”

The U.S. Army needs to better prepare to fight in megacities, said Gen. Mark Milley, the service’s chief of staff, on Tuesday.

Speaking at New America’s conference on the Future of War, Gen. Milley said he believes that this represents “a fundamental shift” coming in how the United States fights. “We’re not in it yet, but we can see the previews” in some recent fighting we have seen in places like “Aleppo, Fallujah, Mosul,” he said.

“This has huge implications” for the Army, he said. One major change will be smaller units operating in networks. This likely will require having “more mature, more seasoned leaders at lower levels.” But, he added, this doesn’t mean that the future Army will be “special forces on steroids.”

Also at the conference, I interviewed Eric Schmidt of Google fame, who has been leading a civilian panel of technologists looking at how the Pentagon can better innovate. He said something I hadn’t heard before, which is that artificial intelligence helps the defense better than the offense. This is because AI always learns, and so constantly monitors patterns of incoming threats. This made me think that the next big war will be more like World War I (when the defense dominated) than World War II (when the offense did).

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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