June 26, 2019

Democrats Face a Defense Spending Conundrum

By Loren DeJonge Schulman

On Wednesday and Thursday, 20 of the two dozen contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination will converge on stage in Miami to make their case to the American people. As candidates navigate the political reality show, they will face two major pressures: to differentiate themselves from the crowd of fellow travelers and to align on virtuous moral stands that set them apart from the sitting president.

Foreign-policy and defense wonks tend to bemoan the lack of emphasis on their specialties during election season while panicking about the results these two priorities incentivize. Standing out in foreign policy and defense typically demands a bold step away from the safe, technocratic “Blob,” as Obama administration advisor Ben Rhodes called the Washington foreign-policy establishment. And aligning against Trump means pressing to reverse his policies cold turkey. Foreign-policy experts tend to get spooked by these approaches because they seem to ignore complicated nuances.

Black-and-white calls to end wars, blow up budgets, close detention centers, or sign idealistic agreements have routinely run into the brick walls of entrenched realities that stand in the way of election promises. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all campaigned on some variation of rolling back the tides of war, nation building, and intervention. Each entered into, stayed in, or expanded conflicts, and none achieved the defense budget savings or Defense Department reforms they’d sought and promised.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

  • Commentary
    • Defense News
    • January 2, 2020
    The state of acquisition is in need of better coordination

    The U.S. defense enterprise has been in a near-constant state of acquisition reform since the 1980s. Although it has been a top Pentagon priority, expected competition with Ch...

    By Susanna V. Blume & Mikhail Grinberg

  • Video
    • December 19, 2019
    CNAS: Bold Ideas for National Security

    This year, CNAS experts brought bold ideas and bipartisan cooperation to the national security conversation. In 2020, the CNAS team will continue tackling the biggest security...

    By Susanna V. Blume, Kara Frederick, Kayla M. Williams, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Richard Fontaine, Kristine Lee, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Ely Ratner, Paul Scharre, Elizabeth Rosenberg & Carrie Cordero

  • Reports
    • November 20, 2019
    Make Good Choices, DoD

    In a new report, Susanna V. Blume and Molly Parrish offer a deep dive into how the U.S. Department of Defense makes decisions about what the U.S. military needs, what to buy a...

    By Susanna V. Blume & Molly Parrish

  • Video
    • November 20, 2019
    Results of the second Pentagon audit

    Bob Hale discusses takeaways from the Department of Defense’s latest audit, and the impacts it’s having on the agency’s culture.Watch the full conversation on Government Matte...

    By Robert F. Hale

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia