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."
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.
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."
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."
In the News
Featuring commentary and analysis by Richard Fontaine, Duyeon Kim, Martijn Rasser, and Nathalie Grogan.
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.
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