Analysis / Forces

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2017

Defense Outlook Series

Two CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters land on the flight deck of the amphibious docking ship USS Shreveport (LPD 12) during night operations in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 29, 2006. Shreveport is conducting a component unit exercise in preparation for an upcoming deployment. DoD photo by Seaman Recruit Chad R. Erdmann, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Report Summary

Three themes emerge about forces this year:

  • Stable plans refers to the fact that the Obama administration in its last year in office is playing out the strategic approach that it established in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
  • Disruptive threats refers to events that have occurred since the 2014 QDR and upset its strategic vision, in particular, the rise of an aggressive Russia, an increasingly assertive China, and ISIS attacks both in the Middle East and globally.
  • Strategic inflection points refer to the installation of a new administration in January 2017 and its charting of a new direction. Outside advice already abounds.

The days of speculating about how low forces might be cut are over.

One thing is clear: the days of speculating about how low forces might be cut are over. A consensus has developed that threats are growing and forces need to grow to meet them. Structure is at its low point, and any changes will be on the up side (assuming continuing budget deals to avoid sequestration).

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Mark Cancian, "U.S. Military Forces in FY 2017," Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 19, 2016, last modified April 19, 2016,