Alternative Futures and Army Force Planning

Implications for the Future Force Era

by Brian Nichiporuk

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Abstract

To help the U.S. Army with force planning for the 2025 era, this study uses the tool of alternative futures analysis. It bounds the future the Army will face by laying out a representative spectrum of different “future worlds” that hopefully illustrate the complete universe of future missions. By mixing and matching possible trends across five key areas (geopolitics, economics, demographics, technology, and environment), six alternative futures are created: “U.S. unipolarity” and “democratic peace” (best cases), “major competitor rising” and “competitive multipolarity” (medium-good cases), “transnational web” (medium-bad case), and “chaos/anarchy” (worst case). After explaining the main features of each future, the study creates an appropriate “Army type” for each, through a three-step process: (1) a representative combat scenario was created for each future, (2) the strategies-to-tasks methodology was used to set out the raw capabilities needed for a given scenario, and (3) the force characteristics and size required to meet the needs presented in the capability statements were formulated. All the needed characteristics were then bundled together to form a basic Army type for a given future. The report concludes with a review and discussion of the common desired characteristics found across the six types.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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