Defense Policy

“The Future of American Defense” Now Released

March 5, 2014  • Jonathon Price

The White House has just released its 2015 budget and though some have noted it is less “austere” than predicted, the Department of Defense still has many difficulties ahead.

The DoD has requested a $496 billion budget for 2015. Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed what the budget meant for the Pentagon last week noting that the United States Army would shrink to its smallest size since 1940. Meanwhile, the DoD will increase spending on technology and equipment. These are certainly difficult trade-offs that carry risk. Managing these risks will remain a key focus for the Defense Department in the years ahead. Top brass will constantly have to do more with less.

The Aspen Strategy Group spent last summer thinking through this very real dilemma and asked nine defense and budget experts to share their thoughts on the global challenges the United States faces in the decades ahead, suggest an outline for America’s defense strategy going forward, and finally, propose how to find the means to resource that strategy appropriately. Their proposals have been compiled and have just been released as the book, The Future of American Defense (pictured above), which can be purchased here.

Some of their propositions may be surprising. Historian Melvyn P. Leffler argues that periods of austerity can actually be a good thing. Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, stresses the importance of formulating a grand strategy based on a set of fundamental assumptions. Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell sheds light on the inherent challenges of the U.S. pivot to Asia.

It is clear that tough choices are already being made, but this is only the beginning of a long process. Hopefully, the ideas shared in this book can contribute to a meaningful conversation about building the new defense strategy that will be required for the 21st century.

Jonathon Price is the deputy director of the Aspen Strategy Group, a policy program of the Aspen Institute that seeks to promote high level bipartisan dialogue on critical foreign policy and national security issues.