The United States faces a myriad of challenges in the 21st century including fighting and paying for two wars, building America’s economic strength, rising powers that contest established orders, international and domestic terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and resource scarcity.
The Obama administration’s National Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review lay out an ambitious agenda to protect and promote American interests in this rapidly changing environment. Yet, questions loom as to how the administration will implement its priorities, especially in a constrained budget environment and a period of deep economic uncertainty. Given the heightened need to prioritize spending, has the administration laid out a sustainable vision?
The Center for a New American Security will address these issues and more in nine reports released today ahead of its fourth annual conference, Shaping the Agenda: American Security in the 21st Century, which will take place this Thursday, June 10. All publications are available for download now at www.cnas.org and will be available in hard copy at Thursday's conference.
Contracting in Conflicts: The Path to Reform
By Richard Fontaine and John Nagl with a foreword by Allison Stanger
In both Iraq and Afghanistan today there are more private contractors than U.S. troops on the ground. This exploding reliance on contractors costs U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and has grown with inadequate government oversight. According to this report by Richard Fontaine and John Nagl, the need for comprehensive reform is urgent. The United States must embark on a path of ambitious reform that will require: new laws and regulations; an expansion of the government’s contracting workforce; a coordination mechanism within the executive branch; greater scrutiny, more transparency and clearer standards for private contractors; a strategic view of the roles contractors play in American operations; and a change in culture within the government.
Restraint: Recalibrating American Strategy
By Patrick Cronin
Faced with a shifting and complex global environment, America is likely to encounter heavier security burdens in the years ahead. These burdens, coupled with an ongoing financial crisis and runaway deficits, will force the United States to make tough choices about strategic priorities. Report author and CNAS Senior Advisor Patrick Cronin calls for a recalibration of American strategy, noting, "The United States can best pursue a protracted period of global order by resisting the temptation to solve all the world’s problems. The United States must pursue a strategy characterized by, in a word, restraint, as the only viable means of sustaining U.S. power." Cronin lays out recommendations for achieving a pragmatic combination of engagement and restraint.
President Barack Obama shifted away from the rhetorical framework of former President George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” because he believed this would allow America to more effectively combat the challenge posed by violent extremists such as al Qaeda. Despite this change in rhetoric, and dramatic changes from the early years after 9/11, the Obama administration's approach demonstrates striking continuity with the policies and philosophies adopted by the Bush administration in its final two years. This report’s author, Marc Lynch, examines the administration's efforts to change America's rhetoric and adapt to new threats. Lynch calls on the Obama administration to more clearly articulate its counterterrorism strategy, adapt to new domestic threats, coordinate efforts to engage publics and counter extremist narratives and prepare for a successful attack well in advance. He also warns of the inherent tensions that arise from the administration’s rhetorical commitment to the rule of law as essential to a durable, legitimate campaign against violent extremists, even as it escalates its covert drone operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and counterterrorism partnerships in ungoverned territories.
Crafting a Strategic Vision: A New Era of U.S.-Indonesia Relations
By Abraham Denmark with Rizal Sukma and Christine Parthemore
In the 12 years since its transition to democracy, Indonesia has emerged not only as a powerful political and economic actor in Southeast Asia, but as an important player on the global stage. A new strategic partnership between the United States and the world’s third largest democracy is essential to both nations. As the United States and Indonesia negotiate the bilateral Comprehensive Partnership Agreement, report author Abraham Denmark recommends strengthening economic and security cooperation between the two countries while helping them build capacity to contribute to regional and global challenges like climate change, economic integration and increased security cooperation. Also included in this report are chapters by leading Indonesian strategist Rizal Sukma, who lays out a vision of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, and CNAS Fellow Christine Parthemore, who explores the natural security issues Indonesia faces and proposes areas of cooperation to address mutual interests and concerns.
Sustaining Security: How Natural Resources Influence National Security
By Christine Parthemore with Will Rogers
In the 21st century, the security of nations will depend increasingly on the security of natural resources, or “natural security.” Countries around the world rely on the availability of potable water, arable land, fish stocks, biodiversity, energy, minerals and other renewable and nonrenewable resources to meet the rising needs and expectations of a growing world population. Yet the availability of these resources is by no means assured. Authors of this report - Christine Parthemore and Will Rogers -point to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Mexico and Yemen as examples of how natural security challenges are directly linked to internal stability, regional dynamics and U.S. security and foreign policy interests.
To Serve the Nation: U.S. Special Operations Forces in an Era of Persistent Conflict
By Michele L. Malvesti
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) are currently experiencing their most extensive use and greatest transformation. In playing direct and leading roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the broader U.S. effort to defeat al Qaeda and violent extremism across the globe, these forces have become more operationally adept, endowed with more resources and organizational capacity. They are encountering greater demands for their leadership and expertise than ever before. Yet despite these developments, SOF are not optimized for success. This report’s author, former National Security Council Senior Director for Combating Terrorism Michele Malvesti, examines three specific challenges facing U.S. Special Operations Forces today, and presents recommendations on how best to utilize this invaluable corps of elite soldiers.
America’s Extended Hand: Assessing the Obama Administration’s Global Engagement Strategy
By Kristin Lord and Marc Lynch
This report analyzes the Obama administration’s public engagement strategy in three key foreign policy areas – relations between the United States and the Muslim world, combating violent extremism, and promoting democracy and human rights – and four countries of strategic importance: Iran, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, the report examines how the administration has employed public engagement to advance its broader national security agenda and assesses reforms to date in the National Security Council, Defense Department, State Department, and Broadcasting Board of Governors. Authors Kristin Lord and Marc Lynch identify strengths and weaknesses of the administration’s efforts, and glean early lessons learned to ensure the administration's foreign policy goals are met.
Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan
by Andrew Exum
“Politics is the blind spot in America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan” argues Andrew Exum in this report. Exum opines that good counterinsurgency tactics cannot in and of themselves win a campaign and that the United States has not identified the extent to which U.S. and allied interests may not align with those of our Afghan partners. “To a large extent, U.S. and allied success in Afghanistan depends on what the Afghan government does and fails to do.” If this is the case, success there will rest on our ability to influence the strategic choices of actors in the Afghan government.
Broadening Horizons: Climate Change and the U.S. Armed Forces
By Christine Parthemore, Commander Herb Carmen, USN, and Will Rogers
The effects of climate change and the way we use energy are significant U.S. national security challenges. Addressing them will be increasingly important for our nation's defense. This report examines the dual pressures of climate change and energy on each U.S. military service and regional combatant command. The report’s authors – Christine Parthemore; Commander Herb Carmen, USN; and Will Rogers – map a road ahead to improve the country's ability to promote national security in the face of a changing climate.
In addition to these reports, stay tuned for CNAS Senior Fellow Robert Kaplan's book Monsoon, CNAS Non-Resident Fellow David Kilcullen's book Counterinsurgency, CNAS Writers in Residence Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker's book Counterstrike and CNAS Senior Fellow Tom Ricks's book on the history of U.S. generals and their leadership.
The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.