CSIS: Competing Forces Shape Army’s Future

CSIS: Competing Forces Shape Army’s Future

Photo by: Sgt. Arturo Guzman

A new review by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies says the U.S. Army faces multiple challenges in the next few years. 

To focus on the possibility of so-called “great power” conflicts with China or Russia, the Army needs expensive advanced weapons and other capabilities. It has a day-to-day demand for deployed forces. It also faces difficulties recruiting. The combination of those three dynamics will shape the future as those competing needs are balanced, CSIS says in the Army portion of the larger report, “U.S. Military Forces in FY2021.”  

“The U.S. Army plans slow expansion through FY 2025, but a constrained budget environment will force it to choose between maintaining the units it has and building new kinds of structures,” the report says. “With modernization, the Army has increased production of proven systems and shifted billions into development of high-priority programs to prepare the Army for great power conflict.” 

The Army’s immediate goal “is sensibly plugging its most serious capability gaps by upgrading the major systems it has and producing these systems at relatively high rates,” the report says.  

There are some choices to be made between having a smaller but better armed force or a larger but less capable force, the report says. 

A big ground war could require a large force, while a high-end conflict might call for a smaller force with more advanced weapons and systems. With a constrained budget, the Army couldn’t afford to have both. 

So far, the Army has not shown willingness to cut troop strength to pay for advanced technology 

“Looked at broadly, Army modernization is a ‘good news, good news, bad news’ story: the good news is that the Army continues production of proven systems and has a well-modernized force as a result,” the report says. 

It is also good news that new systems are coming out of the Army’s modernization efforts, but “the bad news is that the Army is still several years away from having a new generation of systems in production to take it into the 2020s and beyond and set it up for potential combat against great power adversaries.” 

The full report is available here.