Information Papers

Persistent Conflict

What is it?
The future security environment will be an era of persistent conflict. In the past, great powers/alliances and the bi-polar world combined to suppress many independent actors and sources of conflict. We are on the leading edge of a period when an increasing number of actors (state, non-state, and individual) in a less constrained international arena, are more willing to use violence to pursue their ends. This will result in an expanding set of both actors and conflicts. In addition, seven enduring trends exacerbate these sources of conflict: Globalization conjoined with Technological innovations; Demographic changes coupled with increasing Urbanization; rising Resource demands; Climate change and natural disasters; Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the consequences of Failed or failing states. These trends will create a future environment that presents a wide range of compound problem sets occurring unpredictably and perhaps simultaneously in time and space, not limited to natural disasters, terrorism, insurgency, civil war, state-on-state, or coalition conflict. Shattered internal societies, characterized by the absence of rule of law and extensive criminal activity, will complicate crises. In the convoluted conditions of this operational environment, fluid combinations of actors will seek to achieve their ends through hybrid combinations of traditional, irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive challenges. They will pursue their interests asymmetrically, unconstrained by moral and legal restrictions. Overall, the strategic environment presents a broad set of variables and a complex range of conditions that will set the stage for future land warfare.

Force Implications: Because of the complexity of conflict and the hybrid challenges presented, land forces must be full spectrum capable – able to combine offensive, defensive, and stability operations simultaneously as part of an interdependent joint force to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. In our globalized world, land forces must rapidly respond to unanticipated conflicts in austere locations and be able to fight upon arrival – they must be expeditionary. As our recent combat experiences demonstrate, neither the duration nor the character of initially successful military campaigns are readily predictable. The complex strategic operating environment of persistent conflict will defy expedient resolution, requiring that we address the fundamental and enduring conditions that prompted the conflict. Land forces must therefore be campaign capable – continuing sustained operations for as long as necessary, adapting as required to unpredictable and often profound changes in the context and character of the conflict.

What has the Army done?
The Army’s existing transformation efforts are consistent with the future we describe. The creation of modular Army formations provides responsive organizations that can be tailored and scaled to respond to unforeseen contingencies and the differing characters of hybrid conflicts and diverse actors. Rebalancing capabilities between the active and reserve components has also added flexibility (expeditionary capable). New modular units are designed to operate across the spectrum of conflict from peacetime military engagement to major combat operations (full spectrum capable). As the FCS program continues, technology spin-outs will continue to be incorporated into existing formations to enhance current capabilities and further improve the Army’s ability to succeed in the future operating environment. In addition, the Army has changed its leader development processes to grow agile, adaptive leaders and has established organizations and programs to enhance language and cultural skills. As an example the Army, as part of a Joint effort, has developed and fielded Human Terrain Teams with reach-back capability that assists Joint Force Commanders in understanding the cultural environment in which they operate (full spectrum and campaign capable).

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will continue to transform its organizations and institutions. In the near future, we will complete the transformation of units to brigade combat teams, multi-functional and functional brigades as the basis for employing forces, and we will adapt headquarters to facilitate the command and control of Joint Forces. Future Combat Systems (FCS) support modular formations by providing levels of Joint connectivity, situational awareness and understanding, and synchronized operations that were previously impossible (full spectrum and expeditionary capable). Accelerating the increase in Army end strength will allow the Army to create additional units that implement the Army Force Generation model and provide sufficient dwell time to develop full-spectrum trained and ready forces, led by leaders able to respond to uncertain, changing environments (campaign capable). On the one end of full-spectrum capability, Army forces will have capability and capacity to conduct security cooperation activities, to include train, advise, and assist missions. At the other end, the Army will be capable of conducting major combat operations and dominating the escalation of violence (full spectrum capable).

Why is this important to the Army?
To provide required forces to Combatant Commanders that in turn provide the President the widest range of political-military options, the Army must ensure that it is capable of operating across the breadth of potential operating environments. The uncertainty of timing, location, and scope of individual conflicts requires an agile expeditionary Army capable of responding to unexpected circumstances and sustaining that commitment for as long as the nation demands it.