April 28, 2021

Sharper: The Next 100 Days

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

By Anna Pederson and Chris Estep

The first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration have featured a range of key foreign policy and national security decisions, from Afghanistan and China to America's COVID-19 response and the threat of climate change. As the administration marks its 100th day in office, what lies ahead? CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation about the national security challenges facing the Biden administration. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.

Features

The Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform

With a new administration in place and the 117th Congress underway, there is a unique and pressing opportunity to reform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the midst of a rapidly evolving security environment, the department should be reoriented in a way that best protects the United States from homeland security threats consistent with law, security and public safety needs, and the nation’s fundamental values. In the first of a series of mission briefs on reforming DHS, CNAS Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero and Executive Research Assistant Katie Galgano offer recommendations for areas of reform.

Trust the Process

Technology and innovation are critical enablers of American military, political, and economic power. But the bureaucratic connective tissue necessary to bring new ideas to life—the people, processes, talent, and relationships within and beyond government—remains uncoordinated, under resourced, and undervalued. In a new CNAS report, authors Loren DeJonge Schulman and Ainikki Riikonen develop a framework for the bureaucratic elements necessary to effectively execute a national technology strategy.

Positive Visions, Powerful Partnerships

At a time when China’s growing global influence has begun to shift the regional balance of power, the pandemic has accelerated and exacerbated many trends in the Indo-Pacific, creating new challenges and opportunities for the United States. Without decisive, coordinated action, regional trends could continue on a trajectory that further favors Beijing. In a new CNAS report, experts Stephen Tankel, Lisa Curtis, Joshua Fitt, and Coby Goldberg argue that the United States must take action in close cooperation—bilaterally, trilaterally, and through the Quad—with Japan, Australia, and India to compete effectively with China in the diplomatic, economic, and defense domains.

Congress & National Security

The Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform

There is an opportunity to reform the Department of Homeland Security in a way that best protects the country from homeland security threats, consistent with law, security and...

Technology & National Security

Trust the Process

The United States is navigating a new paradigm of competition, one that centers not merely on traditional measures of military might, but on technology innovation and its cont...

Indo-Pacific Security

Positive Visions, Powerful Partnerships

Restoring U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific is critical to competing effectively against China....

Events

The Future of the U.S. Afghanistan Strategy

Ahead of the newly announced troop withdrawal deadline of September 11, 2021, serious doubts remain about the Taliban's commitment to the agreement and the future of U.S. strategy in the region. CNAS hosted a conversation in March about the ongoing challenges with General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador James B. Cunningham, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan; Richard Fontaine, CNAS CEO; and Lisa Curtis, Director of the CNAS Indo-Pacific Security Program. Yalda Hakim, anchor and correspondent for BBC World News, moderated the conversation.

Confronting the Domestic Terrorism Threat

Recently, extremist groups have become more visible and emboldened, culminating in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. These events have led to questions surrounding the adequacy of intelligence gathering, information sharing, and the commitment of the federal government to prioritize countering domestic terrorism. CNAS hosted a virtual event on confronting the threat with Christian Beckner, former associate staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Josh Campbell, CNN correspondent and former FBI supervisory special agent; Alexis Collins, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security at the DOJ; and Alex Joel, former chief at the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency. Carrie Cordero, the CNAS Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow, moderated the event.

Commentaries

America’s Military Risks Losing Its Edge

"The Biden administration has inherited a U.S. military at an inflection point," Michèle Flournoy writes in Foreign Affairs. "The Defense Department’s leadership, accordingly, must take much bigger and bolder steps to maintain the United States’ military and technological edge over great-power competitors. Otherwise, the U.S. military risks losing that edge within a decade, with profound and unsettling implications for the United States, for its allies and partners, and for the world. At stake is the United States’ ability to deter coercion, aggression, and even war in the coming decades."

The Case Against Foreign Policy Solutionism

"Devising solutions to national security problems might seem all to the good," argues Richard Fontaine in Foreign Affairs. "The problem is that not all problems can actually be solved—and many of today’s foremost foreign policy challenges fall squarely into that category. Policymakers often consider it better to 'get caught trying' (as the previous Democratic secretary of state put it) than risk the costs of inaction. But trying to fix the insoluble can often make things worse."

Defense

America’s Military Risks Losing Its Edge

Much about the way the Pentagon operates continues to reflect business as usual, which is inadequate to meet the growing threats posed by a rising China and a revisionist Russ...

Indo-Pacific Security

The Case Against Foreign Policy Solutionism

Not all problems can actually be solved—and many of today’s foremost foreign policy challenges fall squarely into that category....

Biden’s Intelligence Community Must Focus On Climate Crisis

"Not only does climate change create significant security threats to America through multiplying global instability," writes Anthony Vinci in Breaking Defense, "it is also a major component of the great power competition with China and Russia. 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 policy makers preserve American interests."

Three Lessons From the Past 365 Days of Online Misinformation

"The failed insurrection on Jan. 6 exemplified the real-world consequences of online misinformation converging with heightened polarization," explain Christopher Estep and Megan Lamberth in Inkstick. "After the digital disorder of this past year, what can US policymakers and tech companies learn about the current realities and uncertain future of the online misinformation problem?"

The Trans Ban Is Gone but More Needs To Be Done

"Simply lifting the ban put in place in 2018 isn’t enough to counteract the discrimination transgender service members and veterans continue to face," writes Nathalie Grogan in Inkstick. "The next steps for the Department of Defense should be to expand the data available on currently serving transgender personnel, develop a targeted recruitment strategy to reach a more diverse population, and protect LGBT service members from all types of harassment and abuse."

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....

Technology & National Security

Three Lessons From the Past 365 Days of Online Misinformation

What can US policymakers and tech companies learn about the current realities and uncertain future of the online misinformation problem?...

Military, Veterans, & Society

The Trans Ban Is Gone but More Needs To Be Done

Simply lifting the ban isn’t enough to counteract the discrimination transgender service members and veterans continue to face....

In the News

Featuring commentary and analysis by Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Lisa Curtis, Martijn Rasser, and Elsa B. Kania.

Transatlantic Security

Is Russia Preparing to Go to War in Ukraine?

Russia’s military buildup near the border of Ukraine continued this week, deepening global concern about Moscow’s ultimate intentions as senior Russian officials and state med...

Indo-Pacific Security

On foreign policy decisions, Biden faces drag of pragmatism

President Joe Biden this past week found himself in search of a foreign policy sweet spot: somewhere between pulling a screeching U-turn on four years of Trumpism and cautious...

Technology & National Security

Biden’s biggest clean-energy partner: China

“Ultimately, bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. would require a rethink of economic policy,” said Martijn Rasser, a senior fellow at the bipartisan Center for a New Ameri...

Indo-Pacific Security

Joe Biden’s 5 Tech Priorities

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team describes its animating philosophy as “build back better.” It’s both a nod to the Trump administration’s penchant for paring back t...

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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