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The art of the defense budget deal

President Trump has an opportunity to insert new ideas into this debate that could break the stalemate, demonstrate his deal-making skills, and provide the Defense Department with the additional funding he promised.

A stronger NATO for a safer world

The threats of the past are re-emerging, the threat of terrorism grows with each passing day, and we need to be more, not less, involved in the conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East so that we can meet the threat of terrorism before it reaches the shores of Europe or North America. No one country, no matter how powerful, can protect us.

Defense Reform in a New Administration

Within the span of one week in December, President-elect Donald Trump turned the defense establishment on its head with three tweets. The first tweet threatened to cancel Boeing's Air Force One replacement program, the second affirmed a Washington Post story on billions of dollars in waste within the defense budget, and the third targeted Lockheed's F-35 program as a way to save "billions." After several weeks of euphoria within the defense establishment, these tweets helped bring expectations back down to Earth. A change in the White House may mean a larger military and growing defense budget, but it does not mean that "the spigot of defense spending" former Defense Secretary Robert Gates began to close in 2009 will be opened ... Read more

Use a Strategic Review to Drive Change

President-elect Donald Trump clearly intends to shake up U.S. foreign policy in significant ways. It seems likely he will try to take a harder line toward both China and Iran, be more aggressive in the fight against ISIL, and significantly increase the size of the defense budget. He has signaled his desire to cooperate more with Russia, as well as his skepticism of NATO and the European Union. He has said much less publicly about other areas where there could be change, such as whether to keep U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, or what will be the broader U.S. counter-terrorism strategy. Bottom Line Taking the time to conduct a lean, focused, and leader-driven strategic review would be an opportunity for ... Read more

Time to Revive Congressional War Powers

In spite of campaign promises and repeated calls for reform, President Barack Obama will leave office having expanded the reach of presidential war powers arguably beyond that of any modern predecessor. The first year of President-elect Donald Trump’s term presents a fresh opportunity for Congress to reconsider the appropriate relationship with the executive branch on the use of force. Rather than peering down Pennsylvania Avenue at a legal scholar well-apprised of the constitutional division of war powers, President-elect Trump’s malleable views on the matter and hints of congressional bipartisanship on foreign policy set the stage for reform. Bottom Line “The important duty of congressional oversight on foreign and defense policy seems rather hollow when the institution seldom votes on the ... Read more

The Enduring Dilemma of Overseas Contingency Operations Funding

The practice of using Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for base budget activities may become a significant issue in the new administration. Because OCO funding is intended for war-related activities that cannot be forecasted well in advance, it is not restricted by the Budget Control Act (BCA) budget caps. However, in recent years both Congress and the Obama administration have moved items from the base budget to the OCO budget as a way of circumventing the BCA budget caps. Roughly half of the OCO budget ($30 billion) is now being used for programs and activities that were previously funded in the base budget. In May, Representative Mick Mulvaney co-sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would ... Read more

Making Innovation Great

President-elect Donald Trump, upon taking office, will be confronted immediately with a profoundly complex and rapidly changing global security environment. Under his leadership the United States will face conventional, and also decidedly unconventional, national security challenges. Both conventional and unconventional challenges will emanate from nation-state competitors and non-government actors alike. Just as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS have already done, these challengers will continue to leverage an increasingly global and commercial innovation environment in order to generate new capabilities that undermine or overcome U.S. warfighting advantages. Competitive Advantage DoD has historically provided as much as 100 percent of the investment capital needed to develop the systems that meet its specialized needs. However, in return for this generosity, it sharply ... Read more

Implementing Security Cooperation Reform to Maximize U.S. Competitiveness Abroad

Security cooperation enables the United States to deepen its global alliances and partnerships in pursuit of common security objectives. Ongoing changes in the geopolitical landscape and increasing public skepticism of the return on investment for security cooperation, including from President-elect Donald Trump, underscore the need for the new administration and Congress to work together to strengthen the strategic prioritization, planning, execution, and accountability of the security cooperation enterprise. Provisions in the proposed FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will further those objectives, but implementation challenges remain within the Department of Defense (DoD), across the U.S. national security system, and in the field. These reforms are critical to ensure the United States retains its competitive advantage globally through its network of ... Read more

Reforming the Civilian Workforce: Two Carrots and Two Sticks

President-elect Donald Trump has proposed two goals for the federal government’s civilian workforce: making it smaller and increasing its quality. Both have also been long time Republican Party goals. Shrinking the size of the federal workforce can be accomplished initially by a hiring freeze, as Trump has pledged. To have a long term effect, however, the administration should concurrently conduct a broad analysis of all elements of government personnel to realign functions to the least cost component able to do the job. Improving the quality of the federal workforce, as Trump as also pledged, can be accomplished by tying compensation to skills, performance, and market factors, making elimination of poor performers easier, and expanding hiring authorities. Carrots and Sticks By ... Read more

Civilian Control of the Armed Forces

On Tuesday, January 10, Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks, senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at CSIS, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing on civilian control of the armed forces. Her written testimony is available here, and a recording of the full hearing is available via the Armed Services Committee website. In the United States, we are blessed with a history of strong civil-military relations. Tensions do exist, however, and we should never take for granted that civilian control of the military, nor healthy civil-military relations more generally, are a foregone conclusion in our Republic. Download full report