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Research Report


David Barno
Nora Bensahel
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 52
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-3)

    The US Army today is at a strategic crossroads. After fifteen years of intense warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is managing the same type of budget and manpower reductions that occurred after World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the end of the Cold War. Yet, the international environment today is far more dynamic and complex than after each of those conflicts, and that is placing unprecedented demands on a force that is drawing down. Thousands of Army troops remain at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Army special operations forces (SOF) are busier than...

  2. (pp. 4-9)

    The Army today is navigating an unprecedented mix of complex currents. Its soldiers continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan against implacable, irregular adversaries that show few signs of quitting. At the same time, bold and aggressive behavior by resurgent and rising nation states has raised the specter once more of major and deadly conventional wars. Global instability is on the rise, and regional powers such as Iran and North Korea, whose interests are inimical to the United States, continue to demand the attention of the US military. Yet despite these growing threats, defense spending remains relatively flat, and Army...

  3. (pp. 10-23)

    Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley has just completed his first year in office and will likely serve for three more years before stepping down in August 2019. The decisions he makes during his term will not only guide the Army through the turbulent demands of the current world, but will also set the foundation for both the mid-term Army of the 2020s and the far-term Army stretching out to 2040 and beyond. While major changes take time, they must be started now to achieve longer-term effects.

    The Army must adapt in five major ways to both meet current...

  4. (pp. 24-33)

    While the Army prepares for the challenges of today, it must also start sowing the seeds of the future Army. Despite the many constraints of the current environment, the Army must still invest time, leadership, and resources now in preparing for the challenges of tomorrow—to ensure that it can operate effectively in a rapidly changing and more unpredictable environment.

    The world from 2020 to 2025 will have much in common with today’s world. Army forces will still be required to fight irregular wars against terrorists and non-state actors; deter and prepare for large-scale interstate conflicts against regional aggressors or...

  5. (pp. 34-44)

    The world of 2040 and beyond will little resemble today’s world and will differ substantially from the world of 2025. Making linear projections based on the current environment will be useless at best and dangerous at worst, since the world order may be dominated by major factors whose outlines are only faint glimmers now. US global power will almost certainly decline in relative terms, and perhaps also in absolute terms, as the last bits of the post-World War II Pax Americana recede into history. Yet, the United States will still play an essential role—and possibly an even more important...