At end of the Cold War, the US Army confronted three challenges. First, the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in an era of strategic uncertainty. The NATO Central Front scenario that had formed the anchor of the Army’s doctrine, equipment, and force structure after Vietnam had disappeared. More than the other services, the Army faced existential questions about its future roles and missions. Second, the Army faced a number of external pressures: the technological opportunities and threats of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), wartime experience, and bureaucratic competition for roles and funding. Third, the Army’s modernization choices did not occur in a vacuum; they were guided by internal preferences regarding the proper role of the organization in the postCold War environment. The tension between the missions demanded by political authorities and the missions the Army preferred to undertake shaped the central decisions on interwar modernization. Ultimately, internal preferences and the competition for relevance proved the most powerful drivers of the Army’s behavior in the interwar period. The Army sought to preserve its own ideas about its place in the defense establishment. Between 1989 and 1998, this preservation effort brought a measured and incremental exploration of the RMA as it might contribute to improvements on the existing core model of the late Cold War army. From 1999 through 2007, the Army moved aggressively in the direction of an alternative vision of warfighting. This abrupt shift, brought on by threats of functional obsolescence, nevertheless bore the imprint of the Army’s underlying preference for conventional warfare. Wartime experience and estimates of the likely demands on the Army played a far smaller role. Neither the consistent demand for low-intensity contingencies nor the experience of protracted counterinsurgency diminished the Army’s attachment to a vision of a future dominated by “firepower-intensive, limited war.”1 In short, the Army’s behavior in the second interwar period represented the triumph of institutional preference over experience and rational expectations. The fate of Army modernization in the second decade of the twenty-first century remains uncertain. The leading Army modernization programs, the technologically ambitious Future Combat Systems (FCS) and the Modularity initiative, continue in spite of growing doubts about their rationales and affordability. The decision in 2006 to increase the size of the Army from ten to twelve division

equivalents only amplified the pressure on these modernization initiatives. In the wake of Iraq, the Army will face at least three basic tradeoffs: capital investment versus labor expansion, the close fight versus rapid deployment and the deep fight, and conventional warfighting versus irregular warfare. The end of supplemental budgets will force the Army to choose between its commitment to ambitious capital and organizational modernization and the manpower expansion necessary to meet the future demands of low-intensity conflict.