The United States maintains a military force primarily to protect the homeland from attack and to protect its interests abroad. There are secondary uses—for example, to assist civil authorities in times of disaster or to deter opponents from threatening America’s interests—but this force’s primary purpose is to make it possible for the U.S. to physically impose its will on an enemy when necessary.
Consequently, it is critical that the condition of the United States military with respect to America’s vital national security interests, threats to those interests, and the context within which the U.S. might have to use “hard power” be understood. Knowing how these three areas—operating environments, threats, and the posture of the U.S. military—change over time, given that such changes can have substantial implications for defense policies and investment, is likewise important.
Each year, The Heritage Foundation’s Index of U.S. Military Strength employs a standardized, consistent set of criteria, accessible both to government officials and to the American public, to gauge the ability of the U.S. military to perform its missions in today’s world. The inaugural 2015 edition established a baseline assessment on which this and future annual editions will build, with each edition assessing the state of affairs for its respective year and measuring how key factors have changed from the previous year. Read more