U.S. Ground Force Capabilities Through 2020

This program is no longer active.

The unique advantages of ground forces will be as vital in the coming decade as they have been in the past.

The coming year will bring pivotal decisions that will shape U.S. defense policy well into future. The President and Congress will have to determine how deeply to cut defense spending relative to other alternatives for shrinking the deficit. And, now with a decade of war behind it, the Defense Department will enter the next decade determined to shape the armed forces for the future, seeking ways to leverage fewer resources to best face new threats and challenges.
Within this context, this report seeks to identify the likeliest range of contingency demands that would involve ground forces over the coming decade and the capabilities that will be most relevant in light of it. The report attempts to transcend the very simplistic argument that pits a counterinsurgency/counterterrorism future against a future dominated by tensions between competing states. Instead it seeks to present the most comprehensive menu possible of very real contingency demands, comparing them to the current and projected supply of U.S. and partner ground force capabilities.

Overall, the project concludes that the unique advantages of ground forces — the ability to take and hold terrain, operate and fight discriminately in close proximity to vulnerable populations, and instill confidence in allies and partners — will be as vital in the coming decade as they have been in the past. The challenge for senior defense and military leaders going forward is identifying and articulating the risks associated with any loss in capability that erodes those advantages. This project and report opens this conversation.