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A New Equipping Strategy: Modernizing the U.S. Army of 2020

June 4, 2012

The U.S. Army is the best-trained, best-equipped and best-led combat-tested force in the world. Today’s Soldiers have achieved a level of professionalism, combat experience and civil and military expertise that is an invaluable national asset. However, powerful global trends—such as increasing demand for dwindling resources, persistent regional conflict empowered by nonstate actors, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the emergence of failed states—are shaping the current and future strategic environments. Myriad hybrid threats that incorporate regular and irregular warfare, terrorism and criminality continue to evolve. Joint forces face the destabilizing effects of global economic downturns and new threats in cyberspace to an increasingly critical and vulnerable information technology infrastructure. These trends create a complex and unpredictable environment in all of the Army’s operational domains: land, sea, air, space and cyberspace.

To continue to provide U.S. combatant commanders with land forces that have the capability, capacity and diversity to succeed in this environment, the Army must continuously assess and adjudicate three foundational imperatives: endstrength/force structure, readiness and modernization. As it looks to the third decade of the 21st century, the Army must balance these three elements to prevent conflict, shape the environment and win decisively. To develop the right force design and mix to execute these imperatives, an equipping strategy for the Army of 2020 must acquire and modernize equipment in ways that provide the best force for the nation within the resources available. To do so, the Army is scrutinizing its major equipping programs against core competencies and required capabilities.

What is needed, therefore, is support for the Army’s acquisition and modernization approach that acknowledges the healthy tension of balancing shortterm (zero to two years), mid-term (two to eight years) and long-term (more than eight years) equipping challenges to support a strategic ground force that is superior, credible and rapidly deployable. This approach has already resulted in the restructuring of 89 planned modernization programs and the outright cancelation of eight others. It has also resulted in the identification of some programs of particular short- and long-term value that are of high priority and which must be protected. The approach is based on the principle of employing frequent, incremental, evolutionary adjustments to programs and priorities to keep pace with rapid technological advances. It includes traditional, rapid and hybrid acquisition process models that complement one another and can be tailored to specific equipping challenges. A leaner, much more agile Army must have within its generating force a leaner, much more agile yet affordable approach to equipping the force. Failure to do so is not an option.