This issue of The Army Lawyer recalls a few important lessons learned at the September 2018 Worldwide Continuing Legal Education (WWCLE) event at our regimental home in Charlottesville. This year’s event brought together senior JAG Corps leaders from around the globe, representing all Army components.
For the past year, The Judge Advocate General has challenged all of us to “Be Ready.” At the 2018 Worldwide CLE, we unpacked that challenge and took a deep look at what attorneys and the JAG Corps may face in the future. The discussions ranged from the new Army Futures Command to future weapons—including autonomous weapons—to the practice of law in the future. The doctrinal framework of AirLand Battle is being replaced by Multi-Domain Operations, and while counter terrorism operations will continue in the near future, we must prepare for direct conflict with peer and near-peer adversaries. As our Army moves into this new era, commanders will rely upon judge advocates not only for their advice and counsel, but for help defining and setting the parameters for this transition.
WWCLE speakers challenged us to think deeply about the application of the law to an entirely new set of challenges such as multi-domain operations, autonomous weapons, and artificial intelligence. The Undersecretary of the Army, Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, discussed the new Army Futures Command and the need to modernize our Army, enhance the lethality and effectiveness of our Soldiers, and rapidly provide capabilities to the force when needed. Lieutenant General Eric Wesley, Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, cautioned that in future combat with a peer competitor we will likely face degraded communications, making our ability to advise the warfighter uniquely challenging. Further, the advent of increasingly long-range weapon systems and significant “standoff,” or enemy controlled space, will prevent us from staging for conflict in the manner we’ve been accustomed to for years. This standoff will limit our ability to stage out of large forward operating bases, challenging the supply chain from the moment we enter the conflict.
In addition, Mr. Richard Kidd, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategic Integration, pushed us to consider the implications of the persistent information confrontation and cyberattacks on our installations. He also challenged us to be ready to provide advice on the legal and policy decisions required to respond to these threats. Mr. Paul Scharre, an author and expert in autonomous weapons, delivered an insightful presentation on artificial intelligence and posed the following questions we all must consider as artificial intelligence becomes weaponized: Are autonomous weapons illegal? Are they immoral? How does the law of armed conflict (LOAC) apply to their implementation?
Finally, many speakers stressed the increased importance of joint and multi-national operations to effectively combat the wide array of cyber operations, information confrontations, and other acts that may fall short of traditional armed conflict. As our potential adversaries continue to push international legal boundaries, we must analyze LOAC principles to determine when and how LOAC should be applied to both defensive and offensive measures in cyberspace.
Ultimately, the message from the 2018 Worldwide CLE was clear: the Multi-Domain Operations of the future require us to assess our capabilities, adapt to new technologies, and apply the law to a rapidly changing problem set. We will need to review our legal framework to prepare for conflict in urban areas with millions of civilians. As enhancements in artificial intelligence make the use of autonomous weapons on the battlefield commonplace, judge advocates must be positioned to advise coders and developers to ensure LOAC principles are built into emerging technology. Finally, as we modernize and revamp our contracting principles, judge advocates must adapt the legal framework to support rapid procurement in the information age.
To you, the legal professionals of the Army’s law firm, the challenges of our future are yours. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Today we are in a unique position to create our future by preparing for rapid advances in technology, conflict, and warfare, so that our Corps can help lead the Army’s response to these unique and nuanced issues. It is incumbent upon us as legal professionals to apply the law to these new challenges in innovative and principled ways, ensuring our commanders have the right counsel to make informed decisions about our evolving threat environment. TAL