The Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World
The Joint Operating Environment 2035 (JOE 2035) is designed to encourage the purposeful
preparation of the Joint Force to effectively protect the United States, its interests, and its allies in
2035. For the Joint Force, thinking through the most important conditions in a changing world can
mean the difference between victory and defeat, success and failure, and the needless expenditure
of human lives and national treasure versus the judicious and prudent application of both to defend
our vital interests.
This document describes the future security environment and projects the implications of change
for the Joint Force so it can anticipate and prepare for potential conflicts. To do this, Section 1
describes the circumstances that are likely to alter the security environment. Next, Section 2
explores how the intersection and interaction of these changes might impact the character of war
in the future. Finally, Section 3 provides a framework to think about the full range of Joint Force
missions and how they may evolve over time.
JOE 2035 illustrates several ideas about how changes to conflict and war might impact the
capabilities and operational approaches required by the future Joint Force. These observations
The future security environment will be defined by twin overarching challenges. A range of
competitors will confront the United States and its global partners and interests. Contested norms
will feature adversaries that credibly challenge the rules and agreements that define the
international order. Persistent disorder will involve certain adversaries exploiting the inability of
societies to provide functioning, stable, and legitimate governance. Confrontations involving
contested norms and persistent disorder are likely to be violent, but also include a degree of
competition with a military dimension short of traditional armed conflict.
These connected challenges are shaped by a wide range of trends and conditions. The future
World Order will see a number of states with the political will, economic capacity, and military
capabilities to compel change at the expense of others. In Human Geography, a range of social,
economic, environmental, and political pressures will push states past the breaking point, spilling
over borders, and creating wide-ranging international problems. The future of Science,
Technology, and Engineering will see others reaching for technological parity as well as designing
innovative mixes of high and low technology that may allow adversaries to more effectively
challenge U.S. interests.
The intersection of trends and conditions reveals the changing character of war. The future
of conflict cannot be understood in terms of individual trends. Issues and problems intersect,
reinforce, and compound across many diverse areas. Sometimes relationships are clear, but more
often they interact in unanticipated and surprising ways. Thinking through combinations of trends
and conditions over many disciplines allows us to better anticipate changes in the character of
conflict and illuminate why the Joint Force may be called upon to address threats to U.S. national
Warfare in 2035 will be defined by six contexts of future conflict. In 2035, the Joint Force will
confront Violent Ideological Competition focused on the subversion or overthrow of established
governments. Threatened U.S. Territory and Sovereignty will become increasingly prevalent as
enemies attempt to coerce the United States and its citizens. Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing
by capable adversaries will challenge the United States over the long term and place difficult
demands on the Joint Force over wide areas of the globe. Intimidation, destabilization, and the use
of force by state and non-state actors alike will result in Disrupted Global Commons and A Contest
for Cyberspace. Internal political fractures, environmental stressors, or deliberate external
interference will lead to Shattered and Reordered Regions. Each Context of Future Conflict poses
a troubling problem space for the Joint Force.
The contexts, when matched with a range of strategic goals, drive an evolving set of missions.
The Joint Force must prepare for a wide range of missions designed to address these contexts. This
set of Evolving Joint Force Missions must at once protect our national interests, deter conflict,
punish aggression, or defeat adversaries who act across regions, domains, and functions. These
evolving missions will be shaped by a continuum of strategic goals that range from reactively
managing security challenges to proactively solving security threats and imposing U.S. preferred
solutions. This span of missions will require a diverse set of capabilities and operational
approaches – some of which are not available to the Joint Force today.
The evolving mission set demands new operational approaches and capabilities. Placing too
much emphasis on contested norms – particularly those high-tech and expensive capabilities to
contain or disrupt an expansionist state power – may discount potentially disruptive low-end
threats, which have demonstrated a troubling tendency to fester and emerge as surprise or strategic
shock for the United States. Conversely, tilting the balance of force development activities towards
capabilities designed to counter persistent disorder may risk a world in which other great powers
or alliances of great powers decisively shift the international order in highly unfavorable ways.
Ultimately, the future Joint Force will best contribute to a peaceful and stable world through wellcrafted
operational approaches attuned to the evolving character of conflict.