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Forging the Future of American Security with a Total Force Strategy

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.orbis.2009.04.012


Abstract An intense debate now rages concerning whether the Army should be preparing and organizing to conduct more ambiguous, irregular operations or focus on maintaining its well honed edge in high-intensity warfare. The terms of the debate are clearly affected by the fact that United States is currently embroiled in perilous counterinsurgency and other irregular operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Should the Army recalibrate itself to wage counterinsurgency and other irregular operations more effectively, or does it need to keep doing what it does best with an eye to future conventional warfare? Given the impossibility of accurately predicting the character of future conflict, it is necessary for the Army to strike a balance between the extremes. But for the Army to effectively implement a policy of “balance,” it must be prepared to dramatically change the way it organizes itself and drop its opposition to specializing its forces for irregular and conventional warfare, respectively. The approach that the Army should take should be based upon a Total Force construct. By utilizing the entire Total Force portfolio, it should be possible to better optimize the mix of ground units prepared for conventional war, irregular war or peace operations to avoid a mis-match between national security strategy and military force. In this manner, it may be possible to stake our claim on the hard won lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, yet hedge against the unknowable future.

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