Over the past 11 years of continuous combat, the Army made great strides at the tactical and operational levels of war. We evolved our tactics, fielded new equipment, and modified our organizations, all while combating determined enemies. These changes were necessary, and they produced an Army without peer on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. However, they do not fully prepare us for the diverse array of challenges our nation faces in the coming years. Changes in the character of modern conflict demand that we continue to evolve as an institution, even as we remain focused on our primary task -- to fight and win our nation's wars.
Throughout the course of history, world events have always presented militaries with both complexity and unpredictability. Today's environment sustains this norm, but adds the unprecedented speed at which events unfold and information travels. The pace of change is accelerating. There are emerging factors at work in today's strategic environment that we cannot ignore. The sheer number of connections between people and societies has increased exponentially. An ever-present global media can instantly elevate local actions to matters of strategic import. Technology and weapons once reserved to states can now find their way into the hands of disaffected individuals and disruptive groups. International tolerance for civilian casualties and collateral damage from military operations has decreased while the capabilities to inflict such damage have spread to a growing number of illicit actors.
These factors call for an Army that is globally engaged and capable of rapidly employing scalable force packages from the smallest to the largest depending on the demands of the situation. We must be able to rapidly adjust our units and capabilities to meet the unique requirements of any situation, delivering precision results through the most capable, discriminate weapon system ever fielded -- the American soldier. At the same time, we must make thoughtful and forward-looking investments in our leaders and institutions to grow the Army from the operational force of today to a force of unparalleled tactical, operational, and strategic excellence -- the nation's premier strategic force of tomorrow.
Changes in the Strategic Environment
Since the early 1990s, there has been no global threat that compares to the former Soviet Union, no peer competitor that threatens our nation or our way of life. We no longer live under the specter of an imminent nuclear war. None of us seeks to return to those days, and our nation's strategic decisions will be strongly shaped in ways to help prevent the return of such a dangerous world.
Despite today's lack of superpower conflict, the world of the 21st century remains a dangerous place. The challenge of preserving a delicate balance between two superpowers has been replaced by the need to protect the nation from a myriad of less conventional, disparate global threats. Regional powers exert influence locally, relatively unconstrained by the actions of global powers. Loosely affiliated groups and movements, united often only by ideology, operate in ungoverned spaces, taking refuge in failed and failing states.
Technological advances have revolutionized the way people and governments interact. Access to global communications and the rise of social media connect more people in more ways across greater distances than ever before. Events that once went largely unnoticed are now viewed internationally, empowering local actors with potentially strategic effect. Simultaneously, the proliferation of advanced weaponry has resulted in the rise of a different sort of enemy. Combining unconventional tactics with advanced weapons, these emerging threats present a new and dangerous challenge. They do not diminish the more conventional threats posed by dangerous or unstable states such as North Korea or Iran, but they require our military to maintain a much broader range of capabilities to respond.