Observations on the US Army’s Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019
I. News Focus
Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019 (JWA 19), executed by the US Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC), a subordinate unit of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), is the US Army’s largest annual joint multinational live exercise. It was conducted at Yakima Training Center in Washington State of the US this year from April 8 to May 11. The US Army Futures Command, which leads the US Army efforts in modernization, prioritized the currently leading concept in the US Army, the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), within JWA 19 training initiatives. In JWA 19, the US Army, in collaboration with the US Joint Force and partner nations of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, France, Australia and Singapore, assessed 28 future warfighting concepts, capabilities and formations in large-scale and realistic battlefield exercises. These exercises are tracked by computer simulators before and after battlefield movements to help the forces involved better understand and consider potential outcome on the battlefield.
II. Security Implications
1. Joint and multinational interoperability is at the core of the US military priorities
JWA 19 shows that joint and multinational interoperability is at the core of the US military priorities. The first assessment conducted in October 2016 at Fort Bliss in Texas/New Mexico was named the Army Warfighting Assessment but was renamed to JWA to better describe the scale and scope of the exercise. JWA in 2018 was conducted at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, Germany, in sequence with the US Air Force’s Blue Flag exercise and Army Combined Resolve X exercise, encompassing six three-star headquarters and more than 6,800 participants from ten partner nations. In 2019, JWA shifted to support the US Army Pacific. JMC will return to Europe in collaboration with the US Joint Force and its allied and partner nations in Europe for JWA 20. JWA 19 has trained more than 4,000 Soldiers and Marines from the Army’s I Corps, Seventh Infantry Division, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Seventeenth Fires Brigade, Fourth Tank Battalion, Fourth Marine Division, and six partner nations.
2. JWA 19 shaped the US Army’s strategy for the future battlefield
JWA 19 has exemplified the US Army’s decade-long Vision and Strategy outlined in 2018, that readiness, modernization and reform are priorities of the US Army. JWA 19 has especially contributed to the modernization strategy which intends to modernize the US Army so that “it is capable of conducting Multi-Domain Operations (MDO): a new concept that envisions the Army rapidly and continuously integrating the efforts of forces on land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace to defeat nation-state aggressors.” More specifically, JWA 19 tested what was put forth in The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 released on December 6, 2018.
Another JWA training initiative included in the modernization strategy is the organizational concept of a Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF). A MDTF is an experimental unit the US Army is developing to put MDO into practice. It is one of the most important concepts assessed at JWA 19. The Soldiers of the Seventeenth Fires Brigade manned MDTF, and they provided the assessment that would inform the US Army Chief of Staff’s decision of whether to field MDTF for deployment around the world. Furthermore, the MDTF concept was tried out in JWA 19 to determine the right capability mix to counter Chinese anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
Thirdly, JWA 19 experimented whether the US Army’s warfighting functions of mission command, intelligence, movement maneuver, protection, fires, and sustainment can work well with military functions and structures of allied and partner nations.
3. The US Army needs extra budget support for Fiscal Year 2020
The US Secretary of the Army, Mark T. Esper, and the newly nominated Chief of Staff of the US Army, General James McConville, are currently promoting the proposed budget of the US Army for fiscal year 2020 to the US Congress, hoping the budget request can be approved before the fiscal year begins on October 1, 2019. According to McConville, if Congress cannot pass the 2020 budget by October 1, an expedient Continuing Resolution would delay or disrupt 118 Army programs. The performance and results generated at JWA 19 can help to sell the budget to the Congress.
III. Trend Analysis
1. The US Army will increasingly build readiness with allies against China and Russia
The US Army will increasingly build readiness with allies against near-peer competitors, especially China and Russia. JWA was conducted in Germany in 2018 with ten allied and partner nations, with Russia as the clear near-peer competitor target. The focus of JWA was then shifted to the Pacific in 2019, and it was conducted in Washington State of the US with six allied and partner nations with China as the obvious near-peer competitor target. JWA will then return to Europe for JWA 20 with Russia again as the apparent near-peer competitor target. Moreover, in the US Army’s Vision and Strategy as well as in its FY2020 budget request before the US House Appropriation Committee, China and Russia are plainly pointed out as the near-peer competitors that will increasingly challenge the US and its allies in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region.
2. Brigade Combat Teams will be increasingly supported by Security Force Assistance Brigades
In addition to JWA working with allied and partner nations, in further support of allies and partners of the US, the US Army has established the Security Force Assistance Command, which will consist of six subordinate Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) – five Regular Army and one Army National Guard. SFABs are specialized units whose core mission is to train, advise, assist, enable and accompany allied and partner nations. As a result, conventional Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) will be increasingly supplanted by SFABs in these support roles to reduce the demand on BCTs, so that BCTs can focus on high-intensity conflict against near-peer and regional-state adversaries. The US Army deployed its first SFAB to Afghanistan in support of the Afghan National Army, and currently is in the process of sending the second SFAB deployment this year basing on lessons learned in the first deployment.
3. Taiwan’s army could use the US Army’s modernization and reform programs as a point of reference
As Taiwan’s army is also undergoing modernization and reform to meet threats from China, it will pay attention to new warfighting concepts, capabilities, and formations utilized by the US Army in its modernization and reform programs, such as those carried out and displayed in JWA 19, and use them as a point of reference in defining its own modernization and reform endeavors.
 Spc. Miguel Ruiz, “US Military, Partner Nations Assess Future Warfighting Capabilities,” The United States Army, May 1, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y5uao6ak
 MAJ Rich Marsh, U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, “Joint Warfighting Assessment 2019: Seven Nations Meet to Finalize Plans,” The United States Army, January 25, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y3azesck
 The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, https://tinyurl.com/ya7xa9nw
 Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Continuing Resolution Would Disrupt 118 Army Programs: Gen. McConville,” Breaking Defense, May 2, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y4fe86rv; Continuing resolutions typically provide funding at a rate or formula based on the previous year’s funding. The funding extends until a specific date or regular appropriations bills are passed, whichever comes first.
 Office of the Secretary of the Army, The Army Vision, June 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y4dk43xt; Office of the Secretary of the Army, The Army Strategy, November 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y6mctc9f; The Honorable Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army and General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff, United States Army, “On the Posture of the United States Army: Statement Before the House Appropriations Committee – Defense, First Session, 116th Congress,” April 9, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/yyfl89c7
 The Honorable Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army and General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff, United States Army, “On the Posture of the United States Army: Statement Before the House Appropriations Committee – Defense, First Session, 116th Congress,” April 9, 2019, https://appropriations.house.gov/events/hearings/us-army-budget-request-for-fy2020