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Research Questions

  1. What are the principal demands for which U.S. and allied military forces should prepare?
  2. If those forces are deemed inadequate, what gaps exist in the capabilities, posture, and operational concepts of those forces?
  3. What options exist to fill those gaps, and what steps should policymakers consider in reformulating plans for future forces?

The U.S. defense strategy and posture have become insolvent. The tasks that the nation expects its military forces and other elements of national power to do internationally exceed the means that are available to accomplish those tasks. Sustained, coordinated efforts by the United States and its allies are necessary to deter and defeat modern threats, including Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine and reconstituted forces and China's economic takeoff and concomitant military modernization. This report offers ideas on how to address shortcomings in defense preparations.

Key Findings

  • The nature of warfare has evolved since the Cold War, and it has become increasingly clear that the U.S. defense strategy and posture are insolvent.
  • The U.S. defense strategy has been predicated on U.S. military forces that were superior in all domains to those of any adversary. This superiority is gone. The United States and its allies no longer have a virtual monopoly on the technologies and capabilities that made them so dominant against adversarial forces.
  • U.S. and allied forces do not require superiority to defeat aggression by even their most powerful foes. The United States, acting in concert with key allies and partners, can restore credible postures of deterrence against major aggression without having to regain overmatch in any operational domain against China or Russia.
  • Russia's brutal and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has awakened North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to the risk of a wider war in the Euro-Atlantic area. This realization has motivated allies to make significant increases in defense spending and preparedness, but much more must be done over the next few years to deter and defend the region against further aggression by Russia's reconstituted military forces.
  • Taiwan has embraced the rhetoric of asymmetric warfare, but its budget reflects a preference for legacy systems. As a result, there is a gap between the United States' and Taiwan's goals for the direction of Taiwan's defense program.

Recommendations

  • Equip and posture forces and support assets for rapid and robust response.
  • Field the basic elements of a multidomain sensing and targeting grid.
  • Field weapons and platforms capable of delivering sufficient levels of lethality into contested battlespaces to impose severe attrition on the enemy's invasion force in the opening days of a conflict.
  • Ensure that inventories of preferred munitions and other consumables are sufficient to carry out continued strikes against enemy forces.
  • Articulate a short list of priority operational challenges for defeating aggression in highly contested environments.
  • Incentivize innovation.
  • Make Congress a partner.
  • Define the future operational concept; efforts will be immeasurably enhanced if all stakeholders have a shared understanding of how joint and combined forces are intended to fight in the future.
  • Accelerate force adaptation.
  • Taiwan should assess both its existing force and all future investments to determine the ability of these investments to survive and operate effectively against full-scale attack on Taiwan.
  • Encourage NATO allies to meet agreed-on defense investment goals and force posture requirements and to devote more resources to military capabilities for sustained, high-end conventional operations, including five-year plans to enlarge munitions inventories.
  • Create a more resilient forward posture for collective defense on NATO's eastern flank. Work with allies to bring all eight battle groups on NATO's eastern flank to brigade strength and enhance readiness and exercises to realize the force generation goals of the allied Force Model.
  • Provide Ukraine with assurances of long-term Western security assistance and training and a clear path to NATO membership.

This research was sponsored by the Smith Richardson Foundation and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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