The Index assesses the ease or difficulty of operating in key regions based on existing alliances, regional political stability, the presence of U.S. military forces, and the condition of key infrastructure. Threats are assessed based on the behavior and physical capabilities of actors that pose challenges to U.S. vital national interests. The condition of America’s military power is measured in terms of its capability or modernity, capacity for operations, and readiness to handle assigned missions successfully. This framework provides a single source reference for policymakers and other Americans who seek to know whether America’s military power is up to the task of defending national interests.
The Global Operating Environment
Looking at the world as an environment in which U.S. forces would operate to protect America’s interests, the Index focused on three regions – Europe, the Middle East, and Asia—because of the intersection of our vital interests and actors able to challenge them.
For the most part, Europe is a stable, mature, and friendly environment, home to America’s oldest and closest allies. The U.S. is tied to it by treaty, robust economic bonds, and deeply rooted cultural linkages. America’s partners in the region are politically stable; possess mature (if debt-laden) economies; and have fairly modern (though shrinking) militaries. America’s longtime presence in the region, Europe’s well-established basing and support infrastructure, and the framework for coordinated action provided by NATO make the region quite favorable for military operations. The
In contrast, the Middle East is a deeply troubled area riven with conflict, ruled by authoritarian regimes, and populated by an increasing number of terrorist and other destabilizing entities. Though the United States does enjoy a few strong partnerships in the region, its interests are beset by security and political challenges, surging transnational terrorism, and the potential threat of a nuclear Iran. Offsetting these challenges to some extent are the U.S. military’s experience in the region and the basing infrastructure that it has developed and leveraged for nearly 25 years.
Asia’s defining characteristic is its expanse, covering 30 percent of the globe’s land area. Though the region includes long-standing allies of the U.S. that are stable and possess advanced economies, the tyranny of distance makes U.S. military operations in the region difficult in terms of the time and sealift and airlift that are required. Summarizing the condition of each region enables us to get a sense of how they compare in terms of the challenge the U.S. would have in projecting military power and sustaining combat operations in each one. THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION 9 As a whole, the global operating environment currently rates a score of “favorable,” meaning that the United States should be able to project military power anywhere in the world as necessary to defend its interests without substantial opposition or high levels of risk.
Read more: http://index.heritage.org/military/2016/