Professional Readings Archives

Reading #136

The Future of the Army

  • By: David Barno and Nora Bensahel /
  • Published: September 2016
  • Read More
  • Access: Open
  • Type: Public
  • Monday, March 27, 2017

Acting Director Major General Robert “Bo” Dyess’ Comments:


During his 8 February hearing with the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, General Allyn, the Vice Chief of Staff, testified that the Army is "outranged, outgunned and outdated." While consistent, predictable funding is desired, last week's reading reminded us that our complex world is characterized by change and uncertainty and the Army must plan accordingly. This week's professional reading underscores the importance of thinking clearly about the problem of future war to develop solutions for today and tomorrow, emphasizing the urgent need to both fix systems and develop new capabilities.

In "The Future of the Army," David Barno and Nora Bensahel, Nonresident Senior Fellows at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, observe that the combination of a shrinking force, declining resources, increasing global commitments, and the renewed possibility of major power conflict present the Army with momentous strategic challenges. Barno and Bensahel argue that Army leaders must approach these challenges with imagination, creative solutions, and unrestrained thinking and take action now in order to ensure that the Army is prepared for current and future challenges.

Barno and Bensahel present recommendations for today (2016-2020); tomorrow (2020-2025); and the day after tomorrow (2025-2040 and beyond). Their recommendations are listed below and the full description of each can be found in the article:

  • Today (2016-2020):

    Adjust force structure to better meet operational requirements
  • Fully integrate the Army's Active and Reserve
  • Rebuild joint and combined arms warfighting capabilities
  • Transform Army headquarters and slash nonessential processes
  • Reconstitute capabilities for rapid expansion
  • Tomorrow (2020-2025):

  • Organize the total force by deployment timelines
  • Strengthen Army strategic mobility and presence
  • Master urban operations
  • Prepare for the next big war
  • Modernize technology investments
  • Set the stage for another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
  • The day after tomorrow (2025-2040 and beyond):

  • Transform Army culture
  • Redesign the structures of the operational and institutional Army
  • Expand personnel reforms and definitions of service.
  • Embrace advanced technologies and experimentation

Adversaries will continue to invest in technology to erode U.S. overmatch. In some areas, however, they have already achieved parity or can overmatch US capabilities. There is an urgent need to improve and develop new capabilities to replace the "work horses" (big 5) that have served us so well. During this week's modernization hearing LTG Murray noted that the "Abrams tank is still towards the top of its class in terms of combat systems but "there is parity out there... I don't think we have overmatch." Without a replacement for the M1 Abrams under development there is a very real possibility that the Army will remain outgunned, outranged, and outdated during the next conflict. Murray observed that we must also be thinking about other systems to regain overmatch. Barno and Bensahel's recommendations offer potential solutions to regain overmatch and ensure that the Army is prepared for the demanding challenges of the future. As you read this week's article, consider their recommendations and the challenges and opportunities they present.

The following Army Warfighting Challenges are directly related to this week's topic:
#4 Adapt the Institutional Army and Innovate:

How to improve the rate of innovation to drive capability development and deliver DOTMLPF-P solutions to the warfighter at a pace that meets operational demand within the existing constraints of the acquisition and budgeting processes.

#6 Conduct Homeland Operations:

How to operate across multiple domains and with multiple partners to defend the homeland and mitigate the effects of attacks and disasters.

#12 Conduct Joint Expeditionary Maneuver and Entry Operations:

The Army needs formations that can rapidly deploy into contested environments, quickly transition to operations, and be sustained to maintain high operational tempo with the overmatch necessary to destroy or defeat enemy forces.

#13 Conduct Wide Area Security:

How do Army forces establish and maintain security across wide areas (wide area security) and across multiple domains to protect forces, populations, infrastructure, and activities necessary to shape security environments, consolidate gains, and set conditions for achieving policy goals.

#14 Ensure Interoperability and Operate in Joint, Inter-organizational, Multinational Environment:

How to integrate joint, inter-organizational, and multi-national partner capabilities and campaigns to ensure unity of effort and accomplish missions across the range of military operations.

#15 Conduct Cross-Domain Maneuver:

How Army forces, operating as part of a joint, interorganizational, and multinational force, train, organize, equip, and posture sufficiently to deter or defeat highly capable peer threats in the degraded, contested, lethal, and complex future operational environment.

#16 Set the Theater Sustain Operations and Maintain Freedom of Movement:

How to set the theater, provide strategic agility to the joint force, and maintain freedom of movement and action during sustained and high tempo operations at the end of extended lines of communication in austere environments.

#17 Employ Cross-Domain Fires:

How to employ cross-domain fires to defeat the enemy and preserve freedom of action across the range of military operations (ROMO).

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,