Strategizing around increasing defense threats & shrinking budgets

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In this two-part interview, Elbridge Colby, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development and director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security discusses the intersection between the National Defense Strategy and the 2020 budget.


According to Defense News, the Defense Department has received its final topline for FY20. While this figure won’t be public until February, the Pentagon’s biggest challenge is to now determine ways to execute the National Defense Strategy while keeping on-budget. The current version of the strategy outlines growing global threats, and bolstering our defenses against them could take a lot of capital. Elbridge Colby, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development and director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, told Government Matters that “Strategy wears a dollar sign.”

 

“You can see the tectonic trendlines that are going to be important, the rise of China as well as a continuing danger in Europe posed by Russia in particular,” Colby said. “I think essentially the strategy presents an [affordable] way that the American people can… in concert with greater effort by our allies, provide those favorable regional balances of power that the United States has sought to achieve throughout its history.”

 

Colby told Francis Rose that in order to better manage the changing landscape, the military should transition from its current anti-terrorism posture to a greater focus on “pacing threats.”  He says that adopting recommended changes in the National Defense Strategy is a key part of countering China and Russia’s military technology.

 

“We have to move, as the strategy says, urgently and at scale to address these challenges and the services should be making sharp shifts. It doesn’t mean getting rid of the rifle and turning it into a computer. Whatever have you. They’re the ones who are the best judges of what that’s going to look like, Colby told Government Matters. “It means a lot more unmanned, a lot more systems that are either really high end or tailored for the low end.”