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Conceptual Foundations of a Transformed U.S. Army

March 7, 2002

Although military transformation only recently has become a matter of widespread public discussion, efforts by the U.S. Army to discern the requirements of a rapidly changing strategic and technological landscape in fact have been underway for more than a decade. They began almost immediately after the Persian Gulf War with the Army’s “Louisiana Maneuvers” and continued throughout the 1990s with a series of Advanced Warfighting Experiments and “Army After Next” studies and wargames.

During the past two years, the Army has extended these efforts through a more focused series of Army Transformation studies and experiments, including major wargames such as the annual “Vigilant Warrior” series and field exercises at Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Lewis, Washington, and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. These did not foresee the specific nature and extent of the 11 September 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the United States, but they did anticipate the threat of combinations of terrorist networks and criminal syndicates based on the territory of rogue nations and shielded by their conventional military forces.

Nevertheless, while these efforts have generated a host of important lessons and insights, they have not yet produced a coherent portrayal of the way Army forces will fight in a future conflict in partnership with their sister services. As one thoughtful officer recently wrote, “The Army’s picture of future war is intuitively obvious to those who have immersed themselves in this effort for the last two years, but it consistently eludes those who restrict their military education to what they read on the Washington Metro every morning. If we do not offer a simple, clear picture of how we will fight, our concept will be supplanted by simpler, narrower images that are easy to sell but impossible to execute.

Having actively participated in the Army’s study efforts during the past seven years, the authors believe the latter have matured to the point where it now is possible to describe with some assurance the challenges U.S. military forces will confront in the next several decades, and how the Army must play its part in meeting them. This paper is the result.