Although the Trump administration has not yet released its Missile Defense Review, as mandated by Congress, it is considering the possible deployment of space-based interceptors. At a time of growing budgetary pressures as well as increased competition with other great powers, the United States can ill afford to waste precious dollars on space-based missile defenses and a new arms race that will make us less, rather than more, secure.
The DoD audit might be worthwhile if it succeeds in finding large amounts of waste and inefficiency. But it won’t and frankly can’t. The audit produced a number of useful findings related to internal controls for information technology and financial reporting. But are these alone sufficient to justify the entire time, effort, and money the audit consumed? Probably not.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), colloquially known as the “Ban Treaty,” is hailed by supporters as the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons states, including the United States, have criticized the treaty on its shortcomings as a legal instrument for disarmament. Beyond this criticism, the United States has done little to engage with the Ban Treaty or its supporters. But ignoring the Ban Treaty is a bad idea that will exacerbate the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear states and could lead to a dangerously uneven pace of international disarmament.
The notion of “requirements” is deeply embedded in military jargon and decision-making processes. But the notion of “requirements” has two perverse effects. The first is that it encourages advocates to ask for maximum capabilities. The second is that it sets goals without a sense of trade-offs. The term should be abolished.
In October 2018, leaks revealed that the White House was considering banning Chinese students from entering the United States. Then in late November, Reuters reported that the Trump administration may step up vetting measures of Chinese students. Yet, for an administration promising to compete more effectively with China, this is a particularly counterproductive proposal, not only on legal and ethical grounds, but also from a purely competitive standpoint.
The OCO budget has been taken advantage of to skirt defense spending limits and to fund base budget activities that do not actually constitute war funding. However, moving all of OCO’s enduring costs into the base budget for the final two years of the Budget Control Act caps may not be politically expedient for passing a budget agreement for FY 2020 and FY 2021.
It’s bipartisan Washington gospel that America’s private sector will deliver the innovation the country needs. However, at the front-end of an era of rapid, disruptive technological change in which global competition is heating up, such expectation is increasingly a bad idea without a far more strategic, centralized, and White House-driven approach to the challenges ahead.
As U.S. sanctions on Iran are re-imposed, questions loom within and outside the United States. Past unilateral sanctions against Iran have been perceived as unsuccessful, and the Trump administration’s resumed reliance on this controversial economic tool as the main driver of its strategy raises several questions. Are these sanctions doomed to fail? Is hinging U.S. strategy almost entirely on economic sanctions the most effective way to counter the Islamic Republic? Will Iran find ways to subvert not just economic sanctions but other U.S. countermeasures as well?
Without a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, which is still a longshot, a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious risks. Chief among them would be the resurgence of terrorism and the deterioration of human rights—including women’s rights—that come with a Taliban victory. A precipitous exit from the country might be worse than the status quo.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, preceded by wide debate, is enjoying a honeymoon of sorts. Domestically, it received strong support and close to full funding while internationally, it has received strong support from allies. However, controversy over the NPR may be just around the corner. There needs to be strong bipartisan commitment to nuclear infrastructure and delivery system modernization as well as arms control.