Strategic Context

“The U.S. Army today is a battle-hardened force whose volunteer Soldiers have performed with courage, resourcefulness, and resilience in the most grueling conditions. They’ve done so under the unforgiving glare of the 24-hour news cycle that leaves little room for error, serving in an institution largely organized, trained, and equipped in a different era for a different kind of conflict. And they’ve done all this with a country, a government—and in some cases a defense department—that has not been placed on a war footing.” 

- Secretary of Defense, Honorable Robert M. Gates, October 10, 2007, AUSA Annual Meeting    

The Army—Active, Guard and Reserve—exists to protect our Nation from our enemies, defend our vital national interests and provide support to civil authorities in response to domestic emergencies.  Our mission is to provide ready forces and land force capabilities to the Combatant Commanders in support of the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy.

While “what” the Army does for the Nation is enduring, “how” we do it must adapt to meet the changing world security environment.  We are in an era of persistent conflict which, when combined with our on-going global engagements, requires us to rebalance our capabilities.  We do this remembering that Soldiers, and the Families who support them, are the strength and centerpiece of the Army.  And, while our Nation has many strengths, in time of war, America’s Army is The Strength of the Nation.

Persistent conflict and change characterize the strategic environment.  We have looked at the future and expect a future of protracted confrontation among state, non-state, and individual actors who will use violence to achieve political, religious, and other ideological ends.  We will confront highly adaptive and intelligent adversaries who will exploit technology, information, and cultural differences to threaten U.S. interests.  Operations in the future will be executed in complex environments and will range from peace engagement, to counterinsurgency, to major combat operations.  This era of persistent conflict will result in high demand for Army forces and capabilities.

Trends Creating the Conditions for Persistent Conflict

The potential for cascading effects from combinations of events or crises arising from the trends described below compounds the risk and implications for the United States.

Globalization and Technology

Increased global connectivity and technological advances will continue to drive global prosperity—yet they also will underscore disparities, such as in standards of living, and provide the means to export terror and extremism around the world.  Globalization accelerates the redistribution of wealth, prosperity, and power, expanding the “have” and “have not” conditions that can foster conflict.  The scale of this problem is evident in the projection that 2.8 billion people are expected to be living below the poverty line by 2025.  While advances in technology are benefiting people all over the world, extremists are exploiting that same technology to manipulate perceptions, export terror, and recruit the people who feel disenfranchised or threatened by its effects.


Extremist ideologies and separatist movements will continue to have an anti-western and anti-U.S. orientation.  Radical and religious extremist groups, separatist, and organizations that support them are attractive to those who feel victimized or threatened by the cultural and economic impacts of globalization.  The threats posed by Sunni Salafist extremists, like Al-Qaeda, as well as Shia extremists with Iranian backing, represent a major strategic challenge.

Population Growth

The likelihood of instability will increase as populations of several less-developed countries will almost double in size by 2020 most notably in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia. The “youth bulge” created by this growth will be vulnerable to anti-government and radical ideologies and will threaten government stability. This situation will be especially true in urban areas in which populations have more than doubled over the last 50 years.

By 2025, urban areas with concentrations of poverty will contain almost 60 percent of the world’s population.

Resource Competition

Competition for water, energy, goods, services, and food to meet the needs of growing populations will increase the potential for conflict. Demand for water is projected to double every 20 years. By 2015, 40 percent of the world’s population will live in “water-stressed” countries. By 2025, global energy demands are expected to increase by 40 percent, threatening supplies to poor and developing nations.

Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Climate change and other projected trends will compound already difficult conditions in many developing countries. These trends will increase the likelihood of humanitarian crises, the potential for epidemic diseases, and regionally destabilizing population migrations. Desertification is occurring at nearly 50-70 thousand square miles per year. Today more than 15 million people are dying annually from communicable diseases. The number of people dying each year could grow exponentially with increases in population density and natural disasters.

Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

The diffusion and increasing availability of technology increases the potential of catastrophic nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks. Many of the more than 1,100 terrorist groups and organizations are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Safe Havens

States that are unable or unwilling to exercise control within their borders create the potential for global and regional groups to organize and export terror. Territories under the control of renegade elements or separatist factions will challenge central government authority, potentially creating a base from which to launch broader security threats. The trends that fuel persistent conflict characterize the strategic environment now and into the future and will require integration of all elements of our national power (diplomatic, informational, economic, and military) to achieve our national objectives. The implication for the Army is the need to be modernized, expeditionary and campaign capable, and prepared to operate across the full spectrum of conflict.

Challenges of Providing Forces with the Right Capabilities

The Army recruits, organizes, trains, and equips Soldiers who operate as members of Joint, interagency, and multinational teams. The Army also provides logistics and other support to enable our Joint and interagency partners to accomplish their missions, as well as support civil authorities in times of national emergencies. Responding to the strategic environment and the national security strategy that flows from it, we are building an expeditionary and campaign quality Army. Our expeditionary Army is capable of deploying rapidly into any operational environment, conducting operations with modular forces anywhere in the world, and sustaining operations as long as necessary to accomplish the mission. To fulfill the requirements of today’s missions, including the defense of the homeland and support to civil authorities, approximately 591,000 Soldiers are on active duty (currently 518,000 Active Component, 52,000 Army National Guard, and 21,000 Army Reserve). Forty-two percent (251,000) of our Soldiers are deployed or forward-stationed in 80 countries around the world. Additionally, more than 237,000 Army Civilians are performing a variety of missions vital to America’s national defense. Of these, more than 4,500 are forward deployed in support of our Soldiers.

Our current focus is on preparing forces and building readiness for counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite this current and critical mission, the Army also must be ready to provide the Combatant Commanders with the forces and capabilities they need for operations anywhere around the world, ranging from peace-time military engagement to major combat operations. Examples of Army capabilities and recent or ongoing operations other than combat include the following:

It is vital that our Army ensures that units and Soldiers have the right capabilities to accomplish the wide variety of operations that we will conduct in the 21st century. Continuous modernization is the key to enhancing our capabilities and maintaining a technological advantage over any enemy we face. We never want to send our Soldiers into a fair fight.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) are the core of our modernization effort and will provide our Soldiers an unparalleled understanding of their operational environment, increased precision and lethality, and enhanced survivability. These improved capabilities cannot be achieved by upgrading current vehicles and systems. FCS will use a combination of new manned and unmanned air and ground vehicles, connected by robust networks, to allow Soldiers to operate more effectively in the complex threat environments of the 21st century. Maintaining our technological edge over potential adversaries, providing better protection, and giving our Soldiers signifi cantly improved capabilities to accomplish their mission are the reasons for FCS. FCS capabilities currently are being tested at Fort Bliss, Texas. They are proving themselves valuable in the current fi ght and are being fi elded to our Soldiers in Iraq. FCS and their capabilities will continue to be integrated into the force over the next 20 years.

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