The Armed Forces that U.S. national leaders will have available to meet future contingencies and conflicts, in 2023 or 2029 for instance, will follow from U.S. strategic designs now being formulated. In September, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff released the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020, which sets out globally integrated operations as one such design. Such design concepts are informed by the imperfect calculations that we make about future threats and risks. At the forefront of those calculations—much like an integrating mathematical function—is concern about the nation’s fiscal environment and specifically the U.S. national debt, which will be a key driver in determining the size, composition, and mix of U.S. Armed Forces for the remainder of this decade, and longer. Fiscal considerations will also condition strategic decisions that will determine where and how U.S. Armed Forces are used, with both “upstream” and “downstream” influences on when and how often they will be used. The impact of the choices that are being made now, regarding the form and capabilities of U.S. Landpower, will persist through the first half of the 21st century, just like those decisions that were made in the late 1970s continue to permeate our Army platforms, systems, and organizations today.
The Army will make its design choices and recommendations within the framework of the Prevent, Shape, Win construct. Leaders will make the best possible estimates as to which tasks and for what purposes Joint Force and Army commanders will employ the land forces provided to them in accomplishing each specific, situation-driven definition of Win—from humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping, to gaining access and opening operational areas, to the destruction of opposing regular forces, to imposing defeat upon adversaries, to creating stability sufficient for a return to indigenous civil authority. The land forces executing these missions will be the Army in Being. What those forces are capable of, and how quickly the Army can place and sustain them to accomplish a durable change in circumstances to the advantage of the United States and its partners are the choices of Joint force design, sizing, and composition that the nation is undertaking. There is substantial ambiguity that makes the best possible estimates, as has been the case so often in the past, inaccurate forecasts.