Shaping U.S. Strategy to Meet America's Real-World Needs
(Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies; issued June 04, 2019)
It is all too easy to talk about strategy in broad conceptual terms, but strategy does not consist of what people say, it consists of what they actually do. The is not a minor issue as the United States shifts back from the period in which the Cold War ended and it had no serious peer competitors, and ideas like "the end of history" and "Globalism" seemed to promise a steady march towards development, peace, and democracy.

It is all too clear that the U.S. must now a focus on major competitors like China and Russia, deal with more limited regional threats like Iran and North Korea, and deal with broad areas of global instability due to threats from extremists and terrorists. These challenges are further compounded by ongoing U.S. wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the challenge of meeting defense costs that total $750 billion in the President's defense budget request for FY2020.

So far, however, the U.S. government has done far more by way of talk and stating broad goals than providing practical analysis and net assessments that shape and justify a given course of action. It has failed to develop well-defined strategic goals and effective plans, programs, and budgets to implement them. U.S. strategy documents lack a clear focus on specific key issues, regions, threat countries, and strategic partners.

This analysis does not challenge the focus on existing national strategy documents on very real threats. It does review the major weakness in current U.S. national security strategy, the failures in the FY2020 budget request, and broader failures in the ways the U.S now shapes and justifies its strategy, and its planning, programming, and budgeting activities.

It suggests that major changes are required in each of these areas, that the U.S. needs a far more functional mix of strategies that address the key challenges to each of the major U.S. combat commands, and that these need to be justified by detailed net assessments. It also calls for reforms that would tie such strategies to a well-defined mix of plans, programs and budgets to implement them, and a focus on a functional Future Year Defense Plan that would consider their future year implications, rather than focus on the coming fiscal year.

It stresses the need to look beyond deterrence and war fighting, and develop strategies that place at least an equal emphasis on hybrid form of civil-military competition. It focuses on the grand strategic need to consider how to achieve stability, conflict, termination, and lasting forms of peace as part of a broader focus on civil-military and hybrid operations. It also stresses the need to see strategic partners as partners, rather than sources of resources and burden sharing, and to avoid seeing competitors and potential threats as opponents in zero-sum games.


Click here for the full report (19 PDF pages) on the CSIS website.

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