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2025 is a study designed to comply with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future. Presented on 17 June 1996, this report was produced in the Department of Defense school environment of academic freedom and in the interest of advancing concepts related to national defense. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.
This report contains fictional representations of future situations/scenarios. Any similarities to real people or events, other than those specifically cited, are unintentional and are for purposes of illustration only.
This publication has been reviewed by security and policy review authorities, is unclassified, and is cleared for public release.
Having lived in 2025 for the last 10 months, we believe we've gained some insights on how we successfully arrived in 2025. As we look back, we believe our "Vigilant Edge" got us here.
The 2025 project team reviewed a number of different future forecasting methodologies. A review of the array of methods led to the selection of alternative futures, operations analysis, and value-focused modeling as the combination of methodologies most likely to yield useful results for the project. These techniques were a part of the earlier SPACECAST 2020 project and experience with them had been beneficial. Their further refinement in this study seemed appropriate. The approach used by the 2025 study creates alternative futures by examining trends, studying the work of respected futurists, considering surprises and "wild cards," and conducting analyses to identify the factors, or "drivers," that will be the major contributors to the process of change in the future.
The common characteristics that emerged from examining this array of plausible futures are instructive. They describe a future in which there is a simultaneous trend for an increase in the number of states and a decreasing role in world affairs. Coalitions and empires may emerge, but the state sees much of its dominance of the twentieth century ebbing away to nonstate entities both larger and smaller than itself. While there is a growing need for the US to be able to defend against threats, including terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, other forms of nonviolent but powerfully destructive economic and information war are likely to emerge. Whatever the nature of the world in 2025, it is not likely to be more benign than the one which confronts us now. Our ability to know, to communicate, and to act decisively through the employment of the required forces are all based on vigilance.