January 20, 2021

Sharper: Day One

Analysis from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges for U.S. foreign policy.

By Chris Estep

The Biden-Harris administration will confront a range of national security challenges from the moment it takes office, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, homeland security, the U.S.-China relationship, and the task of strengthening America's national security workforce. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation about the risks and opportunities facing the new presidential administration and the 117th Congress. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.

Rising to the China Challenge

In 2020, CNAS released a major independent assessment, “Rising to the China Challenge,” as required by Congress in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The report prescribes a comprehensive approach to competition with China and offers nearly 100 specific, actionable policy recommendations across seven critical vectors of American competitiveness. “The United States and China,” the authors wrote, “are locked in strategic competition over the future of the Indo-Pacific—the most populous, dynamic, and consequential region in the world.”

War Powers: What Are They Good For?

In a CNAS report, experts Richard Fontaine, Loren DeJonge Schulman, and Stephen Tankel explore four legislative pathways available to Congress to influence use of force decisions. "New technologies, the evolution of operational concepts and partnerships with other forces, and the ways in which adversaries now challenge the United States," they write, "further complicate questions about the proper scope of congressional authority over use of force decisions."

Defense

Rising to the China Challenge

The United States and China are locked in strategic competition over the future of the Indo-Pacific—the most populous, dynamic, and consequential region in the world....

Congress & National Security

War Powers: What Are They Good For?

Congressional aspirations to equal partnership in the conduct of American conflicts have long gone unsatisfied....

Managing the National Security Workforce Crisis

The federal national security workforce has entered a perfect storm shaped by workforce demographic trends, short-sighted leadership, slow adaptation to modern challenges, and inflexible talent acquisition and management. In a policy brief for Congress, expert Loren DeJonge Schulman argues that this dynamic must change and Congress should treat civilian human capital as a vital building block in America's foreign policy.

Reforming the Department of Homeland Security Through Enhanced Oversight & Accountability

Nearly 20 years into its existence, the Department of Homeland Security conducts extensive activities to protect national security, but its oversight and accountability functions have not matured with those responsibilities. In a CNAS report, expert Carrie Cordero outlines the pressures placed on the department’s immigration enforcement, border security, and law enforcement components, and recommends that Congress take more substantial steps to modernize the department’s legal authorities and legislate changes that will bolster DHS’s internal controls.

Congress & National Security

Managing the National Security Workforce Crisis

The federal national security workforce is entering a perfect storm shaped by workforce demographic trends, short-sighted leadership, slow adaptation to modern challenges, and...

Congress & National Security

Reforming the Department of Homeland Security Through Enhanced Oversight & Accountability

In a new report, Carrie Cordero outlines the pressures placed on DHS's immigration enforcement, border security, and law enforcement components....

Commentaries

America Must Show Unity for the Sake of National Security

"Those leaders taking office this month should see in this shock not just a tragedy but a turning point," Richard Fontaine wrote in The Hill about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. "We have watched how bitter political division invites danger. Now Americans must show the world what a dose of unity and common resolve can accomplish as we move forward."

The U.S. Needs a New Techno-Democratic Statecraft: Start With 5G

"For too long," Martijn Rasser writes in The Hill, "America’s approach to technology policy has been fractious and reactive. On its current trajectory—with a shrinking share of global R&D spending, human capital shortfalls, and the rapid rise of a near-peer competitor—the United States cannot continue to coast. America’s ability to harness the emerging technologies that will fuel the 21st century economy to the fullest extent possible is at stake."

Biden Inherits a Challenging Civil-Military Legacy

Experts Jim Golby and Peter Feaver write in War on the Rocks: "According to Biden and his team will grapple with all of this through a national security establishment that has changed in some important ways since Democrats last were at the helm. This would be a daunting assignment even in a stable time, but—given the potential threats on the horizon and the other crises Biden inherits—restoring a healthier civil-military balance will be especially challenging. Civilians may have the right to be wrong, but the margin for error in this environment is slim."

Congress & National Security

America Must Show Unity for the Sake of National Security

The Capitol assault was an attack on democracy itself....

Technology & National Security

The US needs a new techno-democratic statecraft: Start with 5G

To effectively compete, the United States needs a new strategy and a comprehensive commitment to technological leadership....

Military, Veterans, & Society

Biden Inherits a Challenging Civil-Military Legacy

Joseph Biden and his team will inherit a civil-military relationship as tenuous as any in recent memory....

Biden’s Intelligence Community Must Focus On Climate Crisis

"Not only does climate change create significant security threats to America through multiplying global instability, it is also a major component of the great power competition with China and Russia," Anthony Vinci argues in Breaking Defense. "The incoming Biden administration can do much to address climate change as a national security issue. An important first step would be to make changes in the IC so it has the capabilities and focus to help policymakers preserve American interests."

Modernizing the Department of Homeland Security

"With almost two decades behind it and new leadership in the Biden-Harris administration on the horizon, there is a fresh opportunity to conceive of a forward-looking Department of Homeland Security that best serves the nation’s safety," Carrie Cordero and Katrina Mulligan write in Lawfare.

America’s 2021 Counterproliferation Finance Agenda

"The global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by state and non-state actors continues to threaten international peace and security," Jason Bartlett warns in a CNAS commentary. "While the United States has led efforts to target the financial networks that support such activity, much work remains to be done. An incoming administration and the Treasury Department’s expected 2021 update to the National Proliferation Financing Risk Assessment is an opportunity for the U.S. government to set an aggressive counterproliferation financing agenda."

Technology & National Security

Biden’s Intelligence Community Must Focus On Climate Crisis

The incoming Biden administration can do much to address climate change as a national security issue....

Congress & National Security

Modernizing the Department of Homeland Security

There is a fresh opportunity to conceive of a forward-looking Department of Homeland Security....

Energy, Economics, & Security

America’s 2021 Counterproliferation Finance Agenda

The incoming Biden administration will have an opportunity to strengthen America’s counterproliferation finance regime....

In the News

Featuring commentary and analysis by Richard Fontaine, Duyeon Kim, Martijn Rasser, and Nathalie Grogan.

Military, Veterans, & Society

Far-Right Militias Pose Greatest Threat to US National Security, Experts Say

Far-right militias pose the greatest threat to the national security of the United States, experts tell Newsweek. In stark language, they warned of the increasingly grave risk...

Indo-Pacific Security

North Korea’s Kim could be planning missile launch to welcome Biden administration

North Korea appears to be taking steps toward a new test of a powerful submarine-launched missile, U.S. weapons experts said, as it steadily dials up the pressure on President...

Indo-Pacific Security

U.S. Policy on China May Move From ‘America First’ to America & Co.

In tech, Metcalfe’s Law posits that a network becomes more useful in proportion to the number of its users, squared. That means big networks are much more valuable than small ...

Military, Veterans, & Society

Veteran unemployment up to nearly 12 percent amid coronavirus crisis

Veterans unemployment jumped to nearly 12 percent in April as the country’s total jobless rate rose to its highest levels since the Great Depression because of the ongoing cor...

About the Sharper Series

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive the latest analysis from the CNAS expert community on the most important issues facing America's national security.





View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia