As we reach the endgame of 2018, it is hard to be sanguine about the state of defense. DoD leadership should be commended for pushing forward with daily business amid myriad distractions and obstacles as their approach has led to greater normalcy compared to counterparts at other agencies. Yet far-reaching changes are necessary to advance the defense agenda laid out by Secretary Mattis.
Amid a surge in military aviation accidents over the past five fiscal years and four surface fleet incidents between FY 2017 and FY 2018 that killed 17 sailors—calls for a solution to the military’s “readiness crisis” continue to be heard despite recent budget increases. But what is readiness and how does it relate to the recent spell of deadly incidents?
Later this spring, the Trump administration will release its 2018 Missile Defense Review (MDR), which is expected to better align U.S. missile defense policy with the present security environment. President Barack Obama’s 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) reflected the security environment of the time and the aspirations of the Obama administration. In particular, technological advances by U.S. adversaries and a renewed focus on long-term competition with Russia and China drive the need for a new review.
The budget deal’s large defense increase in FY 2019 allows the Department of Defense (DOD) to do a lot more than it was doing before, but not everything. A major trade-off is with force structure. The forces proposed are more than what Secretary of Defense James Mattis had originally signaled but less than what President Donald Trump’s rhetoric had implied.