Reimagining the U.S. Military for Today’s Security Environment

Reimagining the U.S. Military for Today’s Security Environment
U.S. Marines during the NATO-led Trident Juncture 15 exercise, Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa Beach, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015 (United States Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long).

The U.S. military is increasingly ill-suited for today’s complex, interconnected and transparent security environment. It was designed to fight major wars against the military forces of other nations, yet never does so. Despite the best intentions of its architects, the U.S. military is a “kluge”—a combination of sometimes compatible, sometimes mismatched parts cobbled together. It works, but not as effectively or efficiently as it should.

The United States could gain much from reorganizing its military to better reflect today’s security environment but this is easier said than done. The obstacles to deep change are powerful: There is so much tradition, so many people with an economic or psychological stake in the current configuration of the military, and so much fear of deep change that it is easier to continue on the current path of additive evolution and simply accept a decline in effectiveness.

Clinging to a military as its effectiveness erodes is not unusual. Throughout history, armed forces have resisted change well past the point of obsolescence, persisting in old ways until defeat or disaster compels major transformation. Hopefully, the United States can break from this pattern and reconfigure its military without first facing defeat or disaster. But this requires bold ideas: Revolutionary thinking must precede revolutionary change. To begin, America’s political leaders and security experts must reimagine its military, beginning with a blank sheet of paper and a solid grasp of the security challenges the United States is likely to face in the coming decades.

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