As a (retired) Marine, I read the Army’s new strategic document, Army Vision 2015–2015, with a different perspective than its primary readership. While it is a shorter document with less detail than either the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Force 21 or the Navy/Marine/Coast Guard Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the facets of land power that the Army Vision emphasizes are telling.
These two visions are a result of the last 15 years of fighting experience that the Army and Air Force have built. They are both highly divergent, and also complementary. The Army has taken the brunt of the changes that have occurred in the global civilization since the fall of the Soviet Union and is now learning to operate against connected and individually powerful enemies who operate in complex social and urban terrains. The Air Force has been finding its connection to its joint family, overcoming the hubris of early airpower advocates and finding a voice in the joint fight. The two services probably fight better together now than at any other time in the past. But can that hard won cooperation be sustained with such radically different visions of their futures?
In the course of thirteen pages, the Army lays out how the world’s most powerful land force must look one decade from now. This already difficult task is complicated by the fact that those ambitious (or crazy) enough to take on a document of this scope find themselves in an international environment where threats span the gamut of non-state actors to world superpowers, with a healthy dose of the latest Department of Defense buzzword, “hybrid,” thrown into the mix. To respond to these oftentimes still nebulous threats, the Army advocates for eight characteristics of a force for the future.Innovation is the most alluring of these characteristics to policymakers and the public alike. However, it could also prove to be the vision’s undoing should the conditions on the ground change.
The outgoing Secretary of the Army and the recently retired Chief of Staff of the Army published a new vision for the Army that calls for a wider focus to meet a broader range of demands. After previous wars, the Army has shrunk in size; but in today’s security environment the demand for forward American military presence has actually been higher than any other post war period. The Army Vision focuses on how the Army must innovate to meet today’s steady state demands and the challenges of conflict in the future.