Analysis / Budget, Reform

Understanding DoD’s Defense-Wide Zero-Based Review

On August 2, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist issued a memo calling for a “comprehensive zero-based review of all defense-wide (DW) functions and activities” in the Department of Defense (DoD). The goal of this ongoing effort, led by the deputy secretary, is to ensure the alignment of resources with the National Defense Strategy (NDS) through the FY 2021 program review cycle and to “support a longer-term focus on structural reform” that generates future savings. In line with Norquist’s call to “begin immediately and move forward aggressively,” the review kicked off on Saturday, August 10, only eight days after the memo was issued. This brief explains what the review entails, which defense-wide organizations are subject to it, and previous efforts at driving efficiencies in the “Fourth Estate.”

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CSIS Briefs are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). © 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

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Seamus P. Daniels, "Understanding DoD’s Defense-Wide Zero-Based Review," Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 4, 2019, last modified September 4, 2019,