Every April the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute hosts its Annual Strategy Conference. This year's theme, "Strategy During the Lean Years: Learning from the Past and the Present," brings together scholars, serving and retired military officers, and civilian defense officials from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France to discuss strategy formulation in times of penury from Tacitus to Force XXI.
Dr. Jeffrey Record, a renowned military historian and former staff member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, states that while maintaining a capacity to engage in large-scale interstate conventional combat is indispensable, historically the unconventional and subnational conflicts have presented U.S. forces with their greatest challenges. He argues that the United States is entering an era in which small and unconventional wars will be the dominant form of conflict. Additionally, there will be pressure to participate in operations other than war, especially peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and nation-building efforts. Modernization, Dr. Record argues, should be approached cautiously. Since the pace of technological change is so rapid, the United States must be much more discriminating in deciding what technologies to pursue from conceptualization through development and prototyping to production and deployment. While we can build a great many different technologically advanced weapons, the challenge is to decide which ones are necessary. The Army believes institutions are better prepared for change if there is a vigorous and informed debate about the direction and dynamics of that change.