Part of Defense

Defense Priorities: Linking Strategy to Budget

Every process in the Department of Defense, from strategy down to budgeting, is at its core about establishing priorities against which to allocate finite resources. A good strategy will provide the department with guidance on what challenges, roles, and missions to emphasize based on an assessment of the current and future threat environments. When done well, a strategy will also give guidance about where to accept risk, stating what the department should not do or do less of in order to make resources available for higher priority roles and missions. In a perfect world, the strategy filters down through the department’s planning processes to result in a budget that is aligned with the strategy’s guidance about what to prioritize and where to accept risk.

Strategy is meant to guide planning and budgeting, but chaos in the budget process can also severely impact execution of the strategy. When resources levels vary widely from year to year, and defense strategists and planners are uncertain about what to expect even over very short time horizons, strategy, planning, and resource allocation break down. The result is a fragmented and astrategic approach to national security challenges.

The Defense Priorities project explores defense strategy, planning, force sizing and shaping, and budgeting, seeking alignment among these disparate processes in support of a coherent strategic outcome. The research team will follow the annual calendar of major planning and budgeting events, providing timely analysis of executive and legislative approaches to defense resourcing, the risks inherent therein, and alternatives to consider.

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