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Authored by Mr. Nathan P. Freier. | April 2009
The Department of Defense (DoD) cannot long ignore the inadequacy of much of the current force for nontraditional challenges lurking on the strategic horizon. In the face of the next large-scale unconventional challenge when the President turns to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) for options, the SecDef must have the right force available to respond effectively.
Senior landpower leaders in particular should reorient on a new unconventional balance point for force optimization. They should anticipate that there will be changes in the U.S. approach to defense-relevant and defense-specific challenges around the world. As a consequence, they should act proactively to help the SecDef identify and build capabilities for the new balance point during the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. Doing so will enable DoD to better account for contemporary strategic conditions with minimum future institutional disruption. This monograph arrives at the following conclusions.
Pursuit of an unconventional land force revolution that accounts for these eight missions resets landpower for decisive intervention in future complex contingencies. General purpose land forces, in particular, must optimize for armed stabilization missions that demand rapid containment and defeat of nontraditional foreign hazards under conditions of general civil disorder in order to create secure operating space for the effective employment of essential nonmilitary agents (e.g., interagency, intergovernmental, international, and nongovernmental). This course recognizes that U.S. land forces are warfighting institutions first. However, it forces landpower leaders to build for a different kind of warfighting future.
An unconventional revolution in land forces redefines the balance point for force optimization. As a hedge against lingering traditional uncertainty, full-spectrum balance remains a legitimate goal for parts of DoD. Nonetheless, the author concludes that uncompromising pursuit of full-spectrum balance in land forces is fraught with unwarranted strategic risk. Indeed, pursuit of full-spectrum balance is likely to result in renewed imbalance in favor of the missions landpower leaders are culturally most comfortable with as against those they are likeliest to undertake. In this regard, excessive investment in full-spectrum balance in land forces is an expensive strategic detour that can result in sub-optimizing for an unconventional future.
Pursuit of a wider unconventional revolution resets the balance point for land forces in a way that best positions them for decisive intervention against compelling unconventional threats. Landpower remains the most versatile and broadly employable DoD capability. General purpose land forces, in particular, must optimize for armed stabilization. This envisions a land force capable of containing and defeating nontraditional hazards to U.S. core interests under conditions of general civil disorder in complex foreign contingencies. Their purpose in doing so is to create secure operating space for the essential work of important nonmilitary agents (i.e., interagency, intergovernmental, international, and nongovernmental). This course recognizes that American land forces are warfighting institutions first. However, it pushes landpower leaders to recognize that they must anticipate and build for a different kind of warfighting environment.