March 08, 2019

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Defense Budget Masterpiece

By Susanna V. Blume and Chris Dougherty

In December of 2017, before the Department of Defense released its 2019 budget request, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tried to manage expectations about its contents. He argued that the National Defense Strategy, with its prioritization of competition with China and Russia, was so new that the Pentagon didn’t have time to fully incorporate its precepts into the 2019 budget submission. But, he told us, the 2020 budget request would be a “masterpiece,” fully funding the strategy’s direction to invest in the capabilities required to sustain the U.S. military’s advantage over China and Russia while finding more economical ways of prosecuting ongoing counter-terrorism campaigns.

During our time in the Pentagon, we were deeply involved with defense budgets and strategies. Now here we are, over a year later, patiently waiting for a budget request that perfectly aligns resources with the defense strategy and wondering: What would the 2020 defense budget request look like if now-Acting Secretary Shanahan succeeds in delivering on his promised masterpiece?

But first, a word on the problems the National Defense Strategy is trying to solve: U.S. defense strategy for the 70 years since the end of World War II has rested on two interdependent pillars: a constellation of allies and partners and an ability to conduct military operations globally. Allies and partners extend U.S. influence and provide bases and forces to support U.S. military operations. In return, the U.S. military’s ability to project power deters or defeats armed aggression against our allies and partners. Together, these pillars have prevented the outbreak of major wars and made the United States secure and immensely powerful. Today, both pillars are endangered by a combination of neglect, underinvestment, and concerted Chinese and Russian efforts to undermine them.

Read the full article in War on the Rocks.

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