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U.S. Army Regionally Aligned Forces: An Effective Way to Compensate for a Strategy/Resources Mismatch

February 27, 2015

The greatest risk to the capacity of U.S. armed forces is the reduction of landpower provided primarily by the United States Army.3 Early last year, the Department of Defense (DoD) accepted this increased risk before the operational security environment included Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the humanitarian crisis caused by an unparalleled Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. After 13 years of war, the U.S. Army now faces large DoD reductions in manpower while still continuing to provide the preponderance of forces deploying in support of the National Defense Strategy (NDS).4 As the backbone of the joint force, the Army provides the majority of the capacity needed by combatant commands to address enduring joint force requirements, new security risks and theater security cooperation demands while simultaneously maintaining the ability to mitigate future unknown risks that will assuredly appear in the years to come. To meet these challenges, the Army has adopted the regionally aligned forces (RAF) policy as a more effective way to meet the statutory, regulatory and combatant command requirements. However, even with the RAF policy, the Army cannot prevent an unacceptable level of risk if the strategy/resources mismatch continues to grow. There must be renewed analysis that addresses whether the Total Army (active, National Guard and Reserve) should be forced to reduce endstrength below one million Soldiers despite the increasing demand for forces.