Back in January 2017, CSIS asked interested members of the public to make a series of budget forecasts. With the budget announced by President Trump on February 12, 2018, we now have answers to the survey questions.
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.
As we enter 2018, the stage for defense is now set. The president has signed the NSS. The secretary of defense has released the NDS and NPR; the MDR is soon to follow. The White House has made its FY 2019 budget request, and posture hearings are close at hand. However, ambition often outpaces resources, and as with the Obama administration, there is reason for concern with the administration’s plans.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law on February 9, is in many ways a victory for defense hawks in Congress and the administration. It increases defense funding by $165 billion over the next two years—the most that anyone could have reasonably expected. But defense hawks shouldn’t start popping the champagne corks just yet. While this deal may ease the budget pressures on the Department of Defense (DoD) for now, it comes with many risks—namely that policymakers will lose interest in much needed defense reforms and squander much of the additional funding.
The release of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy offers a window to evaluate current and ongoing U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region. But while the documents offer bold, clear strategic direction at a time the United States and the world need clear guideposts, the administration’s actions are at odds with the strategies.
The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy outline a U.S. shift from counterterrorism to inter-state competition with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. However, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for much of this competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs of conventional and nuclear war would likely be catastrophic.