The Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy is insufficiently resourced and the US runs the risk of a military defeat by China or Russia, according to a report by a congressionally mandated panel of bipartisan experts that was released Wednesday.
The warning comes as the Trump administration is weighing a possible cut to the defense budget following a major boost in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
While the report applauds the administration for focusing more on Russia and China as opposed to counterterrorism missions in places like the Middle East, it slams the administration’s strategy for not explaining how the goals of that strategy will be met.
“The (National Defense Strategy) too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world,” the report says, criticizing the lack of investment and organizational changes to reinforce the new strategy.
“The Commission assesses unequivocally that the NDS is not adequately resourced,” the report says, while adding that “available resources are clearly insufficient to fulfill the strategy’s ambitious goals, including that of ensuring that DOD can defeat a major power adversary while deterring other enemies simultaneously.”
As part of its efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit the Trump administration has said it is publicly weighing a cut to the Defense Department after giving the military a major funding boost.
While the US is projected to spend some $716 billion on defense in fiscal year 2019, defense officials tell CNN administration is considering cutting that number to $700 billion in the following year.
The 12-member commission of experts, which was led by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman and former chief of naval operations, retired Adm. Gary Roughead, was mandated in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, which charged it with conducting an independent, nonpartisan review of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
The report warns that given current trends and Russian and Chinese efforts to bolster their own military capabilities, “the US military could suffer unacceptably high casualties” and “might struggle to win or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”
“The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously,” it adds.
The Pentagon issued a statement saying it “welcomes the release of the report by the Commission,” saying that the report “affirms the strategic direction set out on the National Defense Strategy, as well as its key priorities.”
The statement did not address the report’s criticisms of the strategy but said the Defense “Department will carefully consider each of the recommendations put forward by the Commission as part of continuing efforts to strengthen our nation’s defense, and looks forward to working with the Commission and the Congress to do so.”