December 13, 2017

How Many Battles Can the Pentagon Fight in Washington at Once?

By Loren DeJonge Schulman and Lauren Fish

Agenda SecDef relaunched earlier this year with advice for then-new Secretary James Mattis, warning against the demands of unreasonable expectations in order to focus on five key areas: current operations, the defense strategy and budget, personnel, and supporting a disciplined decision process at the White House. Since then, we’ve partly ignored our own advice suggesting further loads for his rucksack, such as civil-military relations. In parallel, Mattis has faced a remarkably slow appointment process and often unpredictable White House. As political appointees are finally trickling into the building, Mattis should reprioritize his agenda and delegate among his new staff.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As the fiscal year begins, a defense wonk’s fancy turns to the Program-Budget Review. This is an extended process in which the secretary’s team reviews the budget submissions for Fiscal Years 2019 to 2023 to determine how they align with the secretary’s guidance and what gaps remain. It’s also a good time to reassert the secretary’s long-term priorities and find the dirty laundry that needs airing. In parallel, the completion of the National Defense Strategy and the need to close out Congress’s still unresolved FY18 budget are also on the to-do list.

Read the full commentary in War on the Rocks.

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