The Building Blocks of Multi-Domain: A Reading List that Gets Beyond the Buzzwords

Few ideas are receiving greater attention from military leaders these days than multi-domain operations. General Martin Dempsey, the previous Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, set the stage by asking “what’s after joint?” With a few stepping stone operational concept documents between, the current Chairman has the Department of Defense chanting a new mantra: trans-regional, multi-functional, and multi-domain. Despite the substantial top-level inertia behind it (from US and allied military Service leaders too), the multi-domain idea remains more conceptual than practicable. There is still a great deal of intellectual churn and practical experimentation that must take place before multi-domain operations can address the security challenges at which it is aimed.

A significant impediment to advancing the conversation on multi-domain operations is understanding the ideas that underpin it. The defense publication landscape is increasingly riddled with titles that include “multi-domain” but leave readers unable to engage in the kind of meaningful discussion and debate that evolve an idea toward practical utility. To address this, and in honor of OTH’s first anniversary, we sat down with contributing editor Dr. Jeff Reilly. As few people have put more thought into the multi-domain operations concept, we asked Dr. Reilly to share a sampling of the publications that helped shape and develop his views on the subject. As you might notice, “multi-domain” does not appear in any of the titles. Instead Dr. Reilly provides us a list that begins to equip readers with the necessary elements to discuss the why and how of multi-domain. It covers topics such as the evolving nature of risk, the impact of future technology on security, cognitive maneuver, and the military design movement. If you’re disappointed by this fear not, following Dr. Reilly’s reading list we have added a couple items that provide a useful overview of the multi-domain concept as well as a selection of OTH’s top multi-domain articles from 2017.

As a final point, reading lists are never comprehensive and rarely, if ever, completely satisfy the expectations of those interested. If you have come across content that you think substantively advances the conversation on multi-domain operations, please feel free to share with us and the broader community on twitter at @oth_mdos or on Facebook.

Dr. Jeff Reilly’s Multi-Domain Reading List

Ideas that underpin multi-domain thinking:

Challenges that drive and shape multi-domain thinking:


Additional Multi-Domain Operations Resources

Overall concept:

Top 2017 OTH Multi-Domain Articles:

Dr. Jeffrey Reilly is the director of Future Concepts at the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). In 2005 he created a cross-domain operations course that evolved into ACSC’s prized Multi-Domain Operations and Strategy program. Dr. Reilly is a retired Army officer with 26 years of active-duty service and is the author of Operational Design: Distilling Clarity from Complexity for Decisive Action.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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