The Trump administration’s 2020 defense budget request was the first to be built with the full benefit of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and consequently should be fully aligned with that document. At its simplest, the strategy directs the department to focus its energies on strategic competition with China and Russia, while finding more economical ways to protect the United States from terrorist threats. While the Trump administration’s 2020 defense budget request, which Congress is currently considering, does propose some new and exciting investments to bring the joint force into better alignment with the National Defense Strategy (NDS), also it falls a bit short of the mark by remaining too focused on both the size of the military and on reducing near-term risks at the expense of preparing for the future.
In a new report, “Strategy to Ask: Analysis of the 2020 Defense Budget Request,” CNAS Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Defense Program Susanna V. Blume examines both the encouraging developments and the shortcomings of the administration’s 2020 defense budget proposal. Overall, she concludes, the 2020 budget request is not quite the “masterpiece” promised by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in 2017. Blume highlights several specific deficiencies, including the 2020 defense budget request’s insufficient funding for investments in artificial intelligence (AI) and uninhabited systems. Instead, the request features a misguided focus on quantitative measurements of military power, such as the mere number of ships in the Navy or squadrons in the Air Force, rather than qualitative assessments of military capability.
“In its 2020 budget request, the Department of Defense has proposed some solid investments in support of the National Defense Strategy,” Blume concludes. “At the same time, DoD continues to invest heavily in the force of today, at the expense of the force of the future.”
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