The Biden Transition and Reshaping U.S. Strategy: Replacing “Burden Sharing” with Meaningful Force Planning

The Burke Chair at CSIS has released a new assessment of the current U.S. focus on burden sharing in shaping its strategic partnerships and alliances. It provides a detailed analysis on the problems in only using defense spending, percentages of GDP, and percentages of procurement spending to set goals for NATO spending and procurement.

It shows that NATO Europe alone sharply outspends Russia on military forces and that efforts to pressure NATO countries to spend 2% of GDP, and 20% of that military spending on procurement, all fail to set meaningful goals for using NATO resources. The end result is that the U.S. has pressured its allies to spend in ways which actually waste defense spending and fail to improve the military capabilities of the alliance.

The report also shows that same problems arise from U.S. burden sharing efforts that fail to take account of the existing levels of defense spending by its Arab strategic partners and its key strategic partners in Asia. The end result has again focused on total spending and arms sales without regard to actual force development and modernization needs.

It makes it clear that Biden transition needs to replace the current U.S. political emphasis on burden sharing with a net assessment of comparative defense spending and joint force planning in order to create the mixtures of deterrence and war fighting capabilities that both the U.S. and its strategic partners really need.

These changes are essential if the U.S. is to regain the confidence of its strategic partners and the support of other states, and if it is to respond to the key ongoing changes in military strategy and tactics such as the emergence of high technology; all-domain warfare; and the developing capabilities of potential threats like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist movements.

This report entitled, The Biden Transition and Reshaping U.S. Strategy: Replacing “Burden Sharing” with Meaningful Force Planning, is available for download at

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.