Q and A Ready and Responsive
Gen. Robert B. Brown, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, speaks with FORUM about the United States’ desire to remain a partner of choice in the Indo-Asia-Pacific
As commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), Gen. Robert B. Brown serves as leader of the Army’s largest service component. Prior to assuming the post in April 2016, Brown served as commanding general of U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he led synchronization of education, leadership development, training support and development, and the development and integration of the doctrine the U.S. Army uses to fight and win wars.
Brown shared his vision for Pacific Pathways with FORUM as well as his take on complexities and challenges to security across the Indo-Asia-Pacific and USARPAC’s continued commitment as a regional partner.
FORUM: Articles on Pacific Pathways often describe it as USARPAC’s ability to have more faces in more places without having more bases. What message would you relay to allies to assure them that this remains true during a time when militaries are facing resource challenges?
BROWN: There will always be resourcing challenges. This is not going to change, but what is changing is the complexity of the security environment. The Indo-Asia-Pacific strategic environment is the most complex I have seen it in my 35 years of service. Populations continue to grow, with 24 of the 36 megacities on Earth in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Technology continues to progress rapidly, and militaries continue to build their capabilities. Inside our region, tensions increase, relationships appear to shift, and vital national interests seem ready to collide. The Pacific is complex. When you add in the diverse land geography — jungles, deserts, arctic and alpine — coupled with large, diverse populations, there is a demand signal for assuring allies and partners. The U.S. and its partners, through bilateral and multilateral exercises, such as Pacific Pathways, develop capabilities and increase collective readiness should crisis or contingency arise. There is a lot of opportunity for us, with seven of the largest armies in the world and 21 of 26 chiefs of defense being army officers. The more the U.S. Army Pacific works with its partners in the region, the better we all become at dealing with the ambiguity, chaos and complexity that has become the modern security environment.
FORUM: Troop readiness, commitment to peace and stability and persistent engagement have remained hallmarks of USARPAC’s presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Explain how your vision as commanding general integrates with those and other long-standing USARPAC pledges to the region.
BROWN: There is no question that the U.S. Army has maintained a proud and uninterrupted presence in the Pacific for what is approaching 120 years, but I think what is more impressive is that we have maintained our presence by evolving our land force capabilities and partnerships throughout the region to overcome challenges that impact all of us. Our robust security cooperation program exercises joint and combined maneuver, empowers our teams through mission command and builds the concepts, personnel and equipment necessary to sustain Army and joint operations. But it’s also a mindset. U.S. Army Pacific must continue to leverage our innovative culture to experiment with new concepts and capabilities, such as multi-domain battle, to build Army and joint force readiness. This mindset will contribute to presenting any competitors with multiple dilemmas and ultimately strengthen deterrence by increasing our warfighting effectiveness. Through these activities, along with their effect on increasing the capabilities of our partners and the U.S. Army Pacific, we will maintain our pledges to our allies and support peace and stability within the region.
FORUM: You have called Pacific Pathways the biggest innovation you’ve seen in training and exercises in 35 years. What has enabled the mission to remain so unique and successful since its debut
BROWN: Well, I think Pacific Pathways is tremendous. First of all, it builds readiness for the U.S. Army throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while supporting joint theater security cooperation requirements. This provides an Army force that is robust, versatile and deployed forward of the international date line nine months a year. I think that’s a pretty significant edge. Some of the tangible benefits of Pacific Pathways are displayed through the relationship-building, repeated rehearsals, and regional familiarization it continually provides — all of which directly contribute to increased readiness throughout the theater at the tactical, operational and strategic level. It has also allowed us to expand the types and quantities of equipment integrated into exercises. Our allies and partners have seen that this has produced multinational, interoperable, combat-ready units while at the same time showcasing the strength of our partnerships to maintain regional security and stability. It is just a huge difference maker in this theater.
FORUM: For the first time in 2016, USARPAC conducted a “reverse” Pacific Pathways. Describe its mission, how it differed from Pacific Pathways and what benefits it yielded for the U.S. and participating regional allies.
BROWN: Well again, this is just another example of the value Pathways plays within this theater. The reverse Pathways brings allies and other partners to the U.S. to conduct combined training in our training areas. While the basic logistic requirements of a reverse Pacific Pathways are similar to other Pacific Pathways, what makes the reverse Pathways different is that it expands on the experience and learning that comes from conducting sustained operations with our allies and partners. While it does provide our partners with an opportunity to conduct training in a foreign environment, while it enhances their capabilities, it also further enables our own interoperability with those partner nations. This helps to reinforce the ties between the U.S. and our partners. This ultimately enhances regional security, which is invaluable.
FORUM: Describe how Pacific Pathways will aid in Army Warfighting Assessment to inform future force design.
BROWN: U.S. Army Pacific and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command agreed to use the 2016 Pacific Pathways to support the broader Army effort to identify potential solutions to operational challenges addressed in the Army Operating Concept. The Army’s Operating Concept lays out warfighting challenges whose solutions would directly contribute to joint operations in the Pacific theater. We evaluate solutions to these challenges through the Army Warfighting Assessment. This assessment is a priority Army method to test and assess emerging material, doctrinal, and conceptual solutions to current and future operational challenges as well as deliver training readiness for participating units. U.S. Army Pacific’s collaboration with the 2017 assessment and other opportunities provides critical early user feedback to expedite technology and concept development that benefits the entire Army and creates efficiencies that accelerate the pace and output of innovation in support of U.S. Army Force 2025. Because of its diverse climates, terrain and geographic expanse, the Indo-Asia-Pacific region serves as a unique environment for equipment and doctrine experimentation, which is why multi-domain battle can be operationalized here as well. By leveraging and extending existing exercises and multinational partnerships in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we benefit from the Pacific theater as a laboratory for experimentation with global applications, and we will continue to inform on these findings to contribute to future force design.
FORUM: Explain the strategy behind developing a “multi-domain battle” doctrine and how such a policy will transform Army tactics and training moving forward.
BROWN: I think we have to continue creating the processes and cultivating a culture of joint integration and innovation that can hedge against the complex security environment we face today. The evolutionary multi-domain battle concept does just that. It builds on air-land battle, full spectrum operations, and the Army operating concept to enable joint forces to create windows of superiority in the land, air, sea, space and cyber domains. These windows of opportunity create multiple options for our civilian leaders and joint force commanders and multiple dilemmas for potential opponents. The Army of the Pacific has an opportunity to operationalize this concept in key locations throughout this vast theater. Land forces have a requirement to project force from the land domain into the air, sea, space and cyber domains. As a result, I think the Army in the Pacific must invest in and deliver future force capabilities which contribute to domain dominance across all domains. By changing mindsets, capabilities and most important, the culture of our military, we can achieve true joint integration. If we do this right, I think we may avoid the next conflict altogether because our adversaries will truly be deterred. Not just because of the technologies or concepts we can bring to the fight through multi-domain battle, but also through our true strategic advantage — our people. Through innovative ways of solving problems, empowered through mission command to develop cohesive teams, our men and women cannot only succeed, but thrive in the ambiguity and chaos that will be a part of any future battlefield. That said, I really believe that we have to take advantage of this opportunity now — here in the Pacific — because it is as good as any opportunity I have seen in my career, in terms of having the right people, timing and structure in place.FORUM: As the senior U.S. Army commander in theater, you oversee the integration of active and reserve personnel to support U.S. Pacific Command. What challenges does this present?
BROWN: We are the operationalization of the multicomponent, Total Force — and this is readily apparent here in the Pacific. Each component of the Army brings unique capabilities to U.S. Army Pacific, and by leveraging and integrating those areas of expertise in support of exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we enhance not only our interoperability within the U.S. Army, but with our allies and partners as well. The National Guard-led State Partnership Program has been a perfect example of this for over 20 years — providing continuity in support and ever-deepening relationships with nine Pacific nations. As many armies in the region can attest, the integration of active and reserve force provides critical capabilities and manpower. The U.S. Army is currently in the midst of an ongoing effort to transition its reserve component forces into an operational, integrated Total Force governed by the same interchangeable policies and procedures. This will facilitate the better integration of the various components of the U.S. Army and result in a more balanced, multicomponent force that can respond to the challenges that exist in today’s complex security environment.
FORUM: Your remarks during the Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 2016 highlighted the need to build civil-military partnerships to counter violent extremism. Why is this important in the region?
BROWN: The Pacific Armies Management Seminar remains an important engagement that enables the armies of the Pacific to discuss, share and exchange best practices, to include ensuring our civilian and military responders are effective and efficient in their efforts to address the security challenges they face. In terms of countering violent extremism, this is incredibly important because it requires a unity of effort. Exchanges like PAMS, and also bilateral or multilateral exercises, enable our partners to not only respond more effectively to violent extremism but also address the underlying conditions that foster extremism. But this absolutely requires a civil-military partnership. By providing a more secure environment for their citizens, countries in the region can focus on addressing the root causes of extremist violence and not only counter it but also eliminate it from local safe havens.
FORUM: You have said the Indo-Asia-Pacific region has all the challenges that exist anywhere in the world, including the unpredictability of North Korea and tensions in the South China Sea. What ongoing and future contributions will USARPAC make to help allies address these challenges?
BROWN: The relationships developed between countries during military-to-military engagements and exercises are an important step in our collective ability to prevent conflict in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. I just returned from the 2016 China Disaster Management Exchange [in Novmeber 2016], and it was a great event displaying the power of continuing to build military-to-military relationships. Events like these allow us to build on areas of common interest, like humanitarian assistance/disaster response, peacekeeping and other key military support operations. Focusing on areas of agreement builds trust that can then be used to mitigate differences and help resolve future issues. This type of progress is made only when we are able to develop a shared understanding between our armies and ultimately, this cultivates mutual respect for one another. Exercises and exchanges build confidence, trust, and interoperability between the U.S. military and our regional partners through consistent partnership. These activities deter conflict by building partner capabilities and relationships that demonstrate the U.S. military remains a reliable partner, engaged and focused on enhancing the multinational collective security network across the region.FORUM: How has the military realm changed since you joined more than 30 years ago, and what advice would you give new recruits hoping to one day assume a leadership role in the Army?
BROWN: In my 35 years of military service, I have seen the security environment change drastically, a change that requires new ways of thinking and operating. I talked about this complexity earlier — but I still am resolute in my belief that our greatest strategic advantage as a nation is our people. And we are developing the capability and capacity to optimize performance of leaders, Soldiers, and civilians in U.S. Army Pacific to thrive in ambiguity and chaos; being comfortable is not enough, our men and women must thrive in the toughest situations to win. Where the “fog of war” was once created by a lack of information requiring some guessing on the part of leaders, today the “fog of war” is having too much information and needing to analyze and find the nuggets of truth to make decisions. My advice for new recruits hoping to one day assume leadership roles is to develop the agile and critical thinking that is required to thrive in dealing with complex problems found not only here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, but throughout the world.FORUM: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?
BROWN: As I have noted, an important aspect of the Army is its people. It is essential to our success and our nation’s defense that our senior leaders empower their teams to ensure that they are fully trained, resourced and enabled to accomplish their missions at every level. From team leader to general officer, we must be ready for any crisis or contingency and push our formations to get better, stronger and become more capable. But this takes more than just the leaders, Soldiers and civilians who are part of U.S. Army Pacific. The family is a critical component of the Army Total Force. By providing resiliency and family programs for the families of the U.S. Army Pacific, and by better integrating reserve forces, we can successfully operate in the complex Indo-Asia-Pacific security environment.