May 11, 2020
Who will the United States fight against and who will fight with it? Where will these future conflicts be fought? What will future conflicts look like? How will they be fought? And why will the United States go to war? This report is the overview in a series that draws on a wide variety of data sets, secondary sources, and an extensive set of interviews in eight countries around the globe to answer these questions. The authors conclude that the United States will confront a series of deepening strategic dilemmas in 2030. U.S. adversaries—China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups—will likely remain constant, but U.S. allies are liable to change, and the location of where the United States is most likely to fight wars may not match the locations where conflicts could be most dangerous to U.S. interests. The joint force will likely face at least four types of conflict, each requiring a somewhat different suite of capabilities, but the U.S. ability to resource such a diverse force will likely decline. Above all, barring any radical attempt to alter the trajectory, the United States in 2030 could progressively lose the initiative to dictate strategic outcomes and to shape when and why the wars of the future occur. To meet future demands, the joint force and the U.S. Air Force should invest in more precision, information, and automation; build additional capacity; maintain a robust forward posture; and reinforce agility at all levels of warfare.
The Future of Warfare
The Failures of Forecasting the Future
Studying the Future Today
Depicting the Key Trends
Predicting the Future of Warfare
Implications for the U.S. Air Force and the Joint Force