June 28, 2007

CNAS Launch: The Future of U.S. Ground Forces

By Michael O’Hanlon and Michèle Flournoy

Dr. John J. Hamre moderated the discussion of the CNAS report “Shaping U.S. Ground Forces for the Future: Getting Expansion Right,” written by Michèle Flournoy and Tammy Schultz.

Flournoy provided an overview of the report, which is the first in a CNAS series on the Future of the U.S. Military, and commentators retired General Michael Hagee and Dr. Michael O’Hanlon provided an array of examples of considerations for the military’s future operating environment. The report highlights the unprecedented strain on the All-Volunteer Force, and the rare opportunity to shape the force for the future that expanding the ground forces by nearly 100,000 presents. Getting the mix of capabilities (shape) right, said Flournoy, is more important than the end strength number (size). Since future operations will present a wide variety of challenges, the future force must truly become full spectrum, which among other things will mean increasing irregular warfare capabilities. General Hagee discussed things that have not changed on the battlefield, such as confronting a thinking enemy, as well as some things that have changed, like the enemy not wearing a uniform. He also stressed the importance of having a national debate over the role of the National Guard and Reserves. O’Hanlon said that expanding the ground forces somewhat in the short-term made sense even with a drawdown in Iraq due to easily imaginable scenarios that would require U.S. forces, ranging from Darfur to Pakistan. Dr. Hamre concluded the session by observing that issues regarding quality versus quantity, the priority given to equipment and modernization, and the operational versus institutional Army needed further analysis and debate.

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