Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Roles And Missions Of The Armed Services In The 21st Century

The Second World War and the Cold War were immense and existential security challenges posed to Americans and our allies in the middle of the 20th century. Members of the so-called “Greatest Generation” prevailed against incredibly daunting odds, successfully building and adapting our military forces to the task of global industrial age conflict.

Today, the grandchildren of that generation are carrying on the tradition of service, facing a far more diverse set of security concerns. At the same time, the progress of the Information Age has sped up the conduct of warfare. These trends have yielded an exceedingly challenging set of circumstances as the US seeks to defend its interests and security around the globe.

Yet our processes, organizations, tasks, and doctrine governing the US armed forces have largely not evolved sufficiently to meet these challenges. Our military services must learn how to rapidly adapt themselves to leverage new technology, foster innovative concepts of operations, and shape their structural and cultural barriers in order to enable the diffusion of new ideas. Congress can play a vital role in accomplishing this task by embracing the opportunity to carry out significant military reforms and re-look the roles and missions of the US armed services in depth for the first time since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. Our national security enterprise will suffer if we do not embrace this opportunity, and continue down the path of an industrial age status quo.

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