Small Wars Journal

The FY2020 Defense Budget Request and the Need for a Real "Strategy Driven" Budget

The FY2020 Defense Budget Request and the Need for a Real "Strategy Driven" Budget by Anthony H. Cordesman – CSIS Report

The proposed FY2020 defense budget is scarcely without merit. Meeting the request would fund many badly needed increases in readiness and major new programs within each service. At the same time, it is also a major failure. The Defense Budget Overview of the FY2020 budget issued by the Office of the Secretary of Defense calls it a "strategy driven budget," but neither the Overview – nor the hundreds of pages of supporting justification provided by the OSD Comptroller and military services – focus on strategy, key threats, net assessments of U.S. and threat forces, and the budget’s impact on key commands and missions.


These issues are explored in depth in a new Burke Chair analysis of the proposed FY2020 budget. This study is entitled The FY2020 Defense Budget and the Need for a Real Strategy Driven Budget. It is available on the CSIS web site at


The analysis calls for a return to real planning, programming, and budgeting. The current FY2020 budget request documents describe spending by military service and focus on the coming fiscal year, rather than tie plans, programs, and budgets together by major mission and strategic goal. They are not justified in net assessment terms and do not address the role of strategic partners. They instead present an “input budget” in the form of a jungle of line items which – if explained justified at all – are done so by military service.


When documents like the Defense Budget Overview do touch on strategy, they almost always do so by describing broad goals. They make little attempt to tie spending requests to either the new National Security Strategy the Administration issued in December 2017, or the National Defense Strategy that it issued in early 2018 It does not define how the U.S. will deal with Russia, China, North Korea, nor Iran in any detail. It presents no clear plan to fight terrorism or extremism.


There is no meaningful form of program budget, and no clear replacement for the annual posture statements of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs issued in the past. There is no way to know how the budget request will shape the capabilities of Department's 10 combatant commands, and how it will affect their "geographic or functional mission" and "command and control of military forces in peace and war."…

Read the entire report.


Addendum to my comment immediately below:

If we consider that the establishment of a new tripolar world order IS NOT the political objective of President Trump (and, thus, NOT the matter that his NSS, NDS and budget proposal is supposed to "get after") -- 

This, because the idea of great power competition IS NOT addressed in this such tripolar world order concept (as great power competition, specifically and emphatically, is, of course, addressed in such things as the Trump NSS) --

Then consider the following from the same "The Nation" article I referenced and quoted from in my initial comment below:


The proof that Trump sought such an international system can be found in his 2016 campaign speeches and interviews. While he repeatedly denounced China for its unfair trade practices and complained about Russia’s nuclear-weapons buildup, he never described those countries as mortal enemies. They were rivals or competitors with whose leaders he could communicate and, when advantageous, cooperate. On the other hand, he denounced NATO as a drain on America’s prosperity and its ability to maneuver successfully in the world. Indeed, he saw that alliance as eminently dispensable if its members were unwilling to support his idea of how to promote America’s best interests in a highly competitive world.


As can be seen by the quoted item that I provide above (which, in hindsight, I obviously should have included in my initial comment below), note that:

a.  A discussion of great power competition IS prominently addressed and discussed in this such article, and,

b.  In a manner to describe it (great power competition) as not being incompatible -- but indeed being consistent with -- the suggested tripolar world order that is suggested as the "driving" political objective of our current president. 

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

As noted in the excerpt I provide above, and as distinctly different from the Old Cold War of yesterday, today Russia and China are seen -- not as "mortal enemies" -- but, rather, as "rivals and competitors."

"Rivals and competitors" that, it would seem, President Trump wants (or simply understands) that he must "share the world" with?  


Before strategy, one might suggest, there needs to be a/the U.S. political objective; one which we can (a) readily point to and one which we can (b) suggest is what a particular "strategy" seeks to achieve?  

In this regard, let us consider (as odd as this, at first, may seem) that:

a.  The establishment of a new tripolor world order; this, in fact:

b.  Is the political objective that President Trump -- via his NSS, NDS and budget submission -- actually seeks to achieve.

As to this such suggestion, consider the following:


... In fact, an examination of his campaign speeches and his actions since entering the Oval Office—including his appearance with Putin—reflect his adherence to a core strategic concept: the urge to establish a tripolar world order, one that was, curiously enough, first envisioned by Russian and Chinese leaders in 1997 and one that they have relentlessly pursued ever since. 

Such a tripolar order—in which Russia, China, and the United States would each assume responsibility for maintaining stability within their own respective spheres of influence while cooperating to resolve disputes wherever those spheres overlap—breaks radically with the end-of-the-Cold-War paradigm. During those heady years, the United States was the dominant world power and lorded it over most of the rest of the planet with the aid of its loyal NATO allies.

For Russian and Chinese leaders, such a “unipolar” system was considered anathema. After all, it granted the United States a hegemonic role in world affairs while denying them what they considered their rightful place as America’s equals. Not surprisingly, destroying such a system and replacing it with a tripolar one has been their strategic objective since the late 1990s—and now an American president has zealously embraced that disruptive project as his own. ...

“I am proposing a new foreign policy focused on advancing America’s core national interests, promoting regional stability, and producing an easing of tensions in the world,” he declared in a September 2016 speech in Philadelphia. From that speech and other campaign statements, you can get a pretty good idea of his mindset.

First, make the United States—already the world’s most powerful nation—even stronger, especially militarily. Second, protect America’s borders. (“Immigration security,” he explained, “is a vital part of our national security.”) Third, in contrast to the version of globalism previously espoused by the American version of a liberal international order, this country was to pursue only its own interests, narrowly defined. Playing the role of global enforcer for allies, he argued, had impoverished the United States and must be ended. “At some point,” as he put it to New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and David Sanger in March 2016, “we cannot be the policeman of the world.”


Based on this such suggestion above -- that the political objective of our current president is to achieve a new tri-polar world order -- might we say that we might, now and accordingly, better understand President Trump's:

a.  Desire to make America "even stronger, especially militarily." (See the fifth quoted paragraph above.)

b.  Desire to promote "regional stability" and "easing of tension." (This, rather than promote our way of life, etc., at the expensive of such "stability?" -- see the fourth quoted paragraph above.)  And his:

c.  Desire, accordingly, to embrace/re-embrace "spheres of influence" (see the second quoted paragraph above) -- a concept that we had said was no longer valid after our winning of the Old Cold War.  

"We will not agree with Russia on everything," Biden said. "For example, the United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognize a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances." )

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above;

Based on the -- radically new --  "political objective" that I provide above, is the Trump NSS, NDS and associated budget submission, somewhat, more easily understood?