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Research Questions

  1. What should various DoD processes be able to achieve, and how do they need to function, in terms of competition?
  2. What is the nature of the gap between the current processes and these requirements?
  3. To what extent, and how, do processes and organizations need to change to best facilitate competition?
  4. What existing Army capabilities can be oriented toward competition?
  5. How can the Army ensure that the competition-relevant capabilities are understood across the Army and DoD?
  6. What authorities and/or policy changes are needed?

With the emergence of strategic competition with near peers as the defining U.S. national security priority in recent years, the U.S. Army has had to rethink its roles and responsibilities. Competition requires strategies, approaches, and missions different from those developed for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, which have been the focus of the past two decades. Many Army missions and capabilities are relevant here, but for the Army to succeed in competition against near peers, it must work in an integrated fashion with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and other U.S. government entities. The objective of this research was to identify how the Army can make or influence procedural and/or organizational changes to help tailor DoD processes for competition and to identify existing Army capabilities that could be more fully used and understood in competition.

The authors reviewed the relevant literature, authorities, policy, and historical cases; interviewed subject-matter experts; and conducted a systematic analysis of overlaps between the existing supply of Army capabilities and the demands of competition below the threshold of armed conflict.

Among other things, the authors found that relevant Army organizations are not always incentivized to tailor their contributions to support broader DoD competition activities. The best opportunities for the Army to contribute to competition efforts, moreover, may not be in its areas of historical focus or competency.

Key Findings

  • Existing processes — and related authorities — were not designed with competition in mind and, thus, require significant modification in certain areas to better enable the United States to compete globally on solid footing.
  • The Army has significant capabilities that can contribute to competition, but current incentive structures seem to interfere with the Army's ability to fully leverage these capabilities.


  • The Army and DoD as a whole should identify opportunities to streamline and tailor key processes to enable quick responses to the rapidly changing threats that may characterize the competition environment.
  • The Army should undertake a comprehensive review of core authorities pertaining to competition-relevant activities to ensure that they are tailored to meet the demands of competition.
  • DoD should examine whether the statutory framework for named operations would permit the creation of a named operation for competition and consider the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach, including whether a named operation would accelerate the provision of needed resources and remedy inefficiencies in existing authorities.
  • The Army should closely examine potential changes to both its recruitment and promotion systems that would incentivize key broadening assignments, including ways to maximize the advantages of such changes while minimizing the opportunity costs.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by United States Army Futures Command and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program with the RAND Arroyo Center.

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