Reshaping U.S. Military Forces: Getting the Process Right


Jul 20, 2018

Soldiers walk to their fuel trucks after refueling a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at a forward area refueling point during a readiness training exercise at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, July 12, 2018.

U.S. soldiers during a readiness training exercise at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, July 12, 2018

Photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers/U.S. Army

This commentary originally appeared on Defense News on July 20, 2018.

The U.S. National Defense Strategy (PDF) calls for increased investments to “restore warfighting readiness and field a more lethal force” capable of defeating aggression by the nation's most capable adversary states. This is warranted: War gaming and analysis done at the think tank Rand point to troubling trends in the capabilities of U.S. and allied forces relative to those of key adversaries.

  • U.S. and allied forces today could not expect to be able to defeat a short-warning Russian invasion of the Baltic states.
  • China's growing military capabilities, combined with unfavorable geographic asymmetries, raise questions about the future credibility of U.S. security guarantees to Taiwan.
  • U.S. and allied forces lack satisfactory answers to the growing threat of North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Congress has registered its concerns as well. The Senate's version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act, seeking to strengthen the defense secretary's hand in shaping the defense program, calls for a new position of assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, assessments, readiness and capabilities.…

The remainder of this commentary is available on

David Ochmanek is a senior defense analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.