The U.S. military is preparing to publish a new doctrine later this month that will help accelerate its joint warfighting and modernization efforts, and according to a top Pentagon official, a new Joint Futures organization could help push those efforts forward for the long term. 


“[The] doctrine is important because it will help clarify and inform all the various levels of the organization on how you plan to fight. And then there’ll be subordinate doctrines that come out of each of the services that support the joint doctrine,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said on June 30 during a speech at the National Press Club.


“The [publication] will come out … and that’ll start us on a journey. It’ll probably take two years or so for all the other documents to catch up so that we establish the doctrine on how to fight,” he said.


The Department of Defense (DoD) recently published its Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC) 3.0, which has taken joint warfighting concepts and focused them on identifying critical physics-based modeling and simulation that can present options and choices tied to campaign-level modeling simulation. 


The current version of the JWC “is now at a mature enough state … to be turned into doctrine,” Milley said. 


But while the incumbent doctrine is critical for accelerating modernization within the military, a new Joint Futures organization would provide the much-needed support for that modernization effort. 


Milley said he’s confident that a Joint Forces organization will be established. 


A J-7 Cross Functional team has already been established within the Joint Staff, exploring the potential options for establishing the new Joint Futures organization. According to Milley, this team marks an “embryonic beginning” for a larger organization.


During his remarks on Friday, he explained that accelerating the U.S. military modernization efforts is a must. And if the Joint Futures organization is successfully established, it could end up being a unified command within the DoD. 


Modernizing the military has been a primary effort for Milley, going back to when he was chief of staff of the Army before being promoted to his current role. During his time in the Army, Milley established the Army Futures Command to help spearhead the service’s top modernization efforts. 


“And it’s not so much just the actual modernization, but it’s the acceptance of the idea that future war, the fundamental character of war, is changing in significant radical ways. If we, the military, don’t adapt ourselves, our doctrine or tactics or techniques, our leadership development, our training, and talent management, but also the weapon systems. If we don’t do that, then we won’t have a military that’s capable of operating in that future operating environment,” Milley said, adding that the military needs to stay ahead of the curve as emerging technologies continue to mature. 


The biggest changes in warfare could come from the rapid onset of AI and quantum computing, Milley predicted.


“We will be able to see ourselves and see the enemy in much more significant ways than we can now. I would suggest that the combination of those two technologies alone would spell a tremendous change in the character of war,” he said.


Milley also cited challenges with Russia and China as reasons for the need to accelerate modernization efforts within the military. He explained that by accelerating its modernization efforts, the U.S. military could compete with China as warfare technology continues to evolve and further support Ukraine against its Russian invaders. 


“[The Joint Forces] organization will help drive concepts [within the doctrine], but also the technologies and describing the operational environment that we’re moving into. So, it’s in the works, it’s happening. It’s a long-term effort,” Milley said. “And I’m quite confident that whoever replaces me will carry that forward.”


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr., a strong advocate for military modernization and the cross-service approach to national defense, has been nominated by President Biden to succeed Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Brown has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.


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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.