Reflections From the First Annual Conference on the Future of War

Policy Paper
July 8, 2015

On February 24-25, 2015 New America and Arizona State University held the First Annual Future of War Conference. The event featured top thinkers and policymakers from academia, major media, think tanks, the military, government agencies, and civil society. The conference was co-sponsored by CNN, had over 400 attendees, and over 9,000 viewers via live-streaming.

The following are some key insights from the event:

1. The future of war will be defined by uncertainty

2. Small wars will continue and the United States may continue to lack an effective strategic response

3. The future of war will increasingly involve unmanned and autonomous weapons systems

4. Cyberspace will expand as a key domain of conflict

5. The United States’ security capacity will increasingly depend upon the ability to integrate multiple capabilities and adapt to change

6. Armed conflicts will involve hybrids of state and non-state adversaries

7. War will increasingly involve the private sector

8. Existing legal and political systems are unprepared for the changing nature of war

9. Cities and megacities will play a growing role in defining global security threats

10. The invasion of Iraq will continue to loom large in the United States’ strategic thinking

11. Viruses, and diseases, both natural and man-made, as well as biological modifications will challenge international security

12. Civil/military relations may stress the United States’ capacity to address future threats

13. Climate change will shape the future of war

14. Big data and mass surveillance will threaten civil liberties and human rights and play a growing role in future conflicts

15. Interstate war will remain rare, elements of global violence may decline, but armed conflict will retain many of its core qualities