February 20, 2018

The True Cost of Trump’s National Defense Strategy

By Susanna V. Blume

On January 20, the U.S. Department of Defense released the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, followed nearly a month later by the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2019. Happily, the two are reasonably well aligned, an outcome that is never assured given how disconnected the processes of strategy formulation and budget building can be. Both documents clearly prioritize strategic competition with China and Russia. But good strategy involves decisions not only about what to prioritize but what not to. Unfortunately, neither document makes clear what missions the Department of Defense is going to end or deemphasize in order to shift focus to this new and very resource-intensive top priority of “expanding the competitive space” against countries investing heavily in high-end capabilities designed to limit U.S. freedom of action (known as “anti-access/area-denial” capabilities). This omission is a problem. As large as the expected increase for defense spending is in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, it is still not enough to cover everything.

In his remarks rolling out the request for the increase, David L. Norquist, the chief financial officer and controller at the Department of Defense, emphasized that this new budget was shaped by the new strategy, despite its concurrent construction. How large the defense budget needs to be depends on what the body politic wants the force to be able to do, which is the subject of the strategy. Budgets are not strategic documents, but when done correctly they are a necessary component of making a strategy real.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs

  • Podcast
    • January 28, 2020
    Building the World’s Biggest Budget

    What do the Pentagon's decisions about military spending say about our priorities as a nation? What goes into the DoD's $700 billion budget each year? Former Pentagon official...

    By Ilan Goldenberg & Susanna V. Blume

  • Podcast
    • January 24, 2020
    Armed services continuously make procurement reforms

    There has been years of continuous procurement reform for the Defense Department. Tinkering by Congress has rendered procurement into a sort of laboratory. And each of the arm...

    By Susanna V. Blume

  • Video
    • January 23, 2020
    Winning the Next War

    Chinese and Russian capabilities to exploit vulnerabilities in America's current way of war have grown. Without major changes to how it fights its wars, does the United States...

    By Robert O. Work & Chris Dougherty

  • Commentary
    • Defense News
    • January 21, 2020
    Interservice rivalries: A force for good

    It’s no secret that the military services fight hard to protect their shares of the defense budget. Just last week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday made his case...

    By Susanna V. Blume & Molly Parrish

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia