Gen. Jeff Harrigian

As we solemnly recognize the 77th anniversary of D-Day and honor the valor and sacrifice of Allied forces who stormed ashore that historic, windswept day, we should pause to consider an often-overlooked question: What did we learn? 

There are many ways to answer. But for someone trying to examine those distant echoes for clues to the future, there is one critical lesson as old as conflict itself: To win battles – and wars – against skilled adversaries your odds increase dramatically if you can present an unmanageable number of dilemmas from places (or domains) that they can see and those that they cannot.

The Allies’ D-Day invasion along the Normandy coast was a textbook example of overwhelming force, deception and information advantage applied simultaneously at multiple points, leaving the German defenders few good options to stop attacks from land, sea and air. 

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The 160,000 Allied troops who came ashore from their forward bases in the U.K. pressed German forces stretched thin by the war on the Eastern Front. German commanders disagreed about whether to defend the beaches – within range of Allied naval guns – or further inland, where they were more vulnerable to bombing. The invaders kept the Germans guessing about whether the Normandy attack was a feint.

Space, cyber require new tools for war

Even with these tactical and strategic advantages and more than a year of planning, D-Day’s success was a close call, achieved only at an astounding cost of more than 10,000 Allied troops killed, wounded or missing. Tactical and strategic advantage always come at a cost.

Today, the U.S. military and our allies are in a race with China and Russia to achieve similar advantages, now further complicated by the addition of space and cyber as new domains of conflict.  

As our adversaries advance their capabilities, time is not necessarily on our side. We must accelerate and adapt to keep pace with  technology and adapt to how adversaries may choose to attack or counter us.  We owe it to those Americans who serve  to build capabilities that deter another bloody conflict  – or, failing that, systems that give us the best chance of succeeding without massive loss of life.

A key concept in the American military’s approach to future wars is something called “Joint All-Domain Command and Control.” JADC2 is Pentagon parlance for the ability to gather vast amounts of data, process and share the information, and react faster than your enemy on land, at sea and in air, space and cyberspace.

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