All Domain Operations

There is little new in the idea that war requires orchestration or that military campaigning requires coordination. Most generations of applied military thinkers (mostly senior officers) take a great deal of what has come before, sprinkle a little contemporary difference, and rename the mechanics of coordination as something fresh. ‘Now’ is a new moment, one that faces challenges that previous thinkers were fortunate enough not to contend with; their warfare was somehow easier or less complex. All domain operations’ (ADO) is today’s popular organising concept for the US military – ‘multi domain operations’ in Britain – which describes a vision of seamless, global integration of command and control across all domains – land, sea, air, space, cyber – at all times, from strategy to tactics. The argument is that this level of coordination and integration requires a radical overhaul of strategy and operations, mostly underpinned by ‘innovative’ technologies like artificial intelligence, because our adversaries have a headstart in harnessing new means of war, and nefarious new tactics, that undermine our pre-eminent position in world politics.

Practitioners focus on how we implement all domain operations while the academic debate typically comments on whether or not a new concept is necessary, accurately represents a changed operating environment, or is motivated by causes other than a purest application of military science. This research is concerned with a third dimension, attempting a nascent intellectual history of the all domain concept through discussions with a small number of influential American and British military officers who have shaped the direction of US military thinking over the past fifteen years.

Oliver Lewis is a research fellow at the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre focused on technology and national security, a senior visiting fellow at the University of Southern California, and general editor of the Routledge series ‘Advances in Defence Studies’. He is co-founder of Rebellion Defense, an artificial intelligence company focused on building software for UK and US defence and national security. Oliver was previously the deputy director of the UK Government Digital Service, built the public-sector business at billion-dollar startup Improbable, and served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan.