How does the leading power in the international system sustain its global position while facing the prospect of relative decline and an extended period of fiscal austerity? The answer to this question is fundamental to American policymakers’ prospects for sustaining U.S. primacy in the international system.

This report examines how dominant powers, when confronted with an extended period of rising security challenges and stagnant or declining resources, have attempted to sustain their position relative to their military competitors. Its purpose is to identify the most effective elements of their strategies and provide policymakers with insight into how to address the United States’ current situation.

Employing a case study methodology, this report examines how two dominant powers in the last century—the United States and Great Britain—sought to sustain their position during a period of relative decline.