Joint ground force commanders—but especially the U.S. Army—will benefit from a thorough reimagining of the potential of expeditionary forces and operations. As it applies to the gray zone, U.S. ground forces need the capability to deploy in large numbers to perform a wide range of missions: enable and support allies, partners, and sister U.S. joint forces; build foreign partner capacity; counter adversary unconventional warfare (UW) campaigns; and perform more traditional offensive and defensive operations (often against hybrid opponents). This requires examining and developing capabilities to defeat A2AD and rapidly delivering ground capabilities on short notice and limited advanced planning.This study found UW to be a final area of unique ground force vulnerability for the United States and its partners as they assess and contend with gray zone challenges. As currently defined by American Joint military doctrine, UW is the collection of activities that enable the overthrow of a government through proxy actors in overtly denied areas. U.S. UW vulnerability emerges in both an offensive and defense context. Offensively, UW provides U.S. decision-makers with a baseline capability for covert degradation of an adversary’s control over contested territory. Defensively, Russian and Iranian UW efforts are currently presenting U.S./partners thorny challenges in Europe and the Middle East. In both instances, U.S. forces are increasingly unfamiliar with the associated ground force demands that might result.For example, SOF UW competency has atrophied with the substantial counterinsurgency and counterterrorism demands of the last decade and a half. For their part, GPF have never been required to understand UW as a concept. Improvement is essential on both counts.A sharper offensive UW instrument will be an important tool for pressuring active gray zone revisionist powers who themselves employ UW to aggressively undermine U.S. partners. Likewise, deep understanding of UW on the part of GPF forces will enable them to engage in defensive UW activities to generate greater resilience among the same at risk partners. Finally, a more robust ground force UW capability that can understand, prosecute, and defend against it, employing the widest set of military and non-military tools, may require a new military competency in “political warfare.” This specific focus would enable both conventional and SOF to grasp the underpinnings and requirements necessary for prosecuting offensive and defensive UW activities against sophisticated gray zone actors.
While Russia continues to support the separatists, the West has buttressed the Ukrainian war effort through training programs and nonlethal aid that includes vehicles, counter-artillery radar, body armor and night-vision equipment. The most recent defense bill passed by the U.S. Congress allocated an additional $50 million for Ukrainian military assistance in 2017, bringing the total to $350 million.