September 25, 2015

Center for a New American Security Announces New Project on the Future of the Ground Forces


Washington, September 28 – The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) today announced a new project, The Future of the Ground Forces. Over the course of the project, CNAS experts will examine how U.S. military leaders should balance competing demands for readiness, training, modernization, and force structure. They will examine the cross cutting missions of the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command and conclude the project by making recommendations for how the U.S. military should prepare the ground forces to address emerging challenges.
Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow in the CNAS Defense Strategies and Assessments Program, will direct the project.
Please find a summary of the project prepared by Mr. Scharre below:
The U.S. ground forces are at a critical juncture. With the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is transitioning out of more than a decade of large-scale ground combat operations. U.S. ground forces remain engaged around the globe in smaller-scale training and advising missions, but will need to be ready to execute a wide variety of contingencies at the president’s direction.
But which contingencies should they prepare for? From a resurgent Russia to a collapsing Iraq to a rising China, the evolving security environment presents a myriad array of possible challenges. Any number of these could involve the commitment of U.S. ground troops, potentially in large numbers, for operations that could be far different from the counterinsurgency wars the U.S. military has fought for the past decade-plus.
At the same time, the scope and character of possible ground operations has evolved far beyond easy characterizations between counterinsurgency vs. conventional operations, irregular vs. regular. Non-state actors possess increasingly capable advanced weapons, such as precision-guided anti-tank weapons (ATGMs); guided rockets, artillery, mortars, and missiles (GRAMM); man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); and low-cost commercially-available drones. These will allow them to contest U.S. forces for control of terrain. States have also adapted their tactics and approaches on the ground, relying on proxies, deniable operations, propaganda, and cyber attacks to achieve their strategic objectives without deploying overt military forces.
The battlespace itself in which U.S. forces find themselves is also evolving. The rapid diffusion of information technology connects and empowers civilian populations, upending traditional relationships between people and authority. Ubiquitous smartphones mean that every citizen can be a global reporter, a node of an ad hoc network, the leader of a spontaneous flash mob, or the symbol for a cause. In future ground operations, U.S. forces are likely to find themselves in an environment where the location and disposition of U.S. troops is known to anyone interested and where every action – and inaction – of U.S. servicemembers is broadcast in real-time.
How will U.S. military leaders balance competing demands for readiness, training, modernization, and force structure to prepare for these possible contingencies – and all within a severely constrained budget? The Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command each have unique but interdependent capabilities, missions, and strengths. In order to understand the necessary capability investments for each, U.S. ground forces must be considered holistically, informed by an understanding of the range of plausible future ground contingencies.  CNAS will examine these and other issues in its new project, The Future of the Ground Forcesand conclude with recommendations for the U.S. military to prepare for these emerging challenges.
To find out more about the series, please contact Neal Urwitz at or 202-457-9409.


  • Paul Scharre

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Paul Scharre is the Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS. He is the award-winning author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence...