Analysis / Forces

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2019: The Buildup and Its Limits

Defense Outlook Series

The Trump administration’s FY 2019 budget proposal laid out a set of priorities.

  • Fix readiness, so that forces meet a minimum standard.
  • Increase modernization by expanding production of existing systems and enhancing R&D for future systems but not launching major new programs.
  • Increase capabilities by upgrading existing systems and buying more munitions, particularly long-range and precision munitions.
  • Expand force structure, but modestly.

To pay for these initiatives, the FY 2019 defense budget rose 14 percent above the FY 2017 level. The Congress generally endorsed the administration’s approach. However, the choices showed that there is no escaping the tradeoff among readiness, modernization, and force structure.

This study examines the changes in the FY 2019 budget for each of the military services, DOD civilians, and contractors, how the budget shapes the forces, and the challenges ahead for building and maintaining the forces needed to implement the administration’s stated strategy.

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This report is funded by general support provided to the International Security Program at CSIS.

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Mark Cancian, "U.S. Military Forces in FY 2019: The Buildup and Its Limits," Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 2, 2018, last modified November 2, 2018,