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The 2018 National Defense Strategy recognizes that the capabilities of U.S. military forces have been eroding vis-à-vis those of key adversaries, especially China and Russia. As a consequence, the United States' ability to deter aggression and intimidation, to assure allies, and to influence events in East Asia and Europe is being undermined. Unless steps are taken to reverse these trends, the United States could find itself playing a greatly diminished role internationally.

The passage by Congress of a budget agreement for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 that substantially increases funding for the U.S. Department of Defense opens up the possibility of making investments in new capabilities and regional postures that can improve the ability of the United States to deter and defeat large-scale aggression by the most-threatening adversary states. This Perspective is intended to help inform decisions to enable future U.S. forces to meet operational challenges. It addresses four aspects of the problem: What are the most important challenges that U.S. forces face today and in the future? What sort of armed force is appropriate for the United States, and why? How and in what ways do U.S. forces fall short of that standard? What sorts of measures are called for to fix the problem, and how feasible is it to implement these?

In order to restore their ability to defeat aggression by these adversaries, U.S. forces will need to devise new approaches to power projection. This Perspective offers three elements of a new approach and identifies priority investment areas.

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This research was conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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