Defense Outlook 2018

This volume presents CSIS experts’ assessment of the Trump administration’s strategy documents and FY 2019 budgets for defense.

This assessment can be done now because, as the Trump administration moved into its second year in office, it has laid out its vision for national security. In December 2017, the president signed the National Security Strategy (NSS), the capstone document for national security. The secretary of defense then released the National Defense Strategy (NDS), which contains his vision for the department. The secretary has also published one targeted strategy document—the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which describes plans for nuclear capabilities—and will soon publish a second—the Missile Defense Review (MDR), which will do the same for missile defense. To implement these plans, the White House released its FY 2019 budget request, and the Congress has begun hearings to consider the new strategy and implementing budget.

The strategies and associated budgets contain much continuity with those of the Obama administration but also move in new directions. The strategy, for example, emphasizes great power competition with China and Russia. It outlines a more ambitious national security effort that requires a substantial increase in resources devoted to defense. The proposed FY 2019 base budget, indeed, contains a large increase—$52 billion above what the Obama administration had forecast and $85 billion above the caps of the Budget Control Act.

Back in January, CSIS national security experts provided their views about the emerging strategy in a podcast, “Examining the New National Defense Strategy.”

With the administration’s strategy and budget documents now published, CSIS experts have been able to analyze the concepts and policies they contain, along with the trade-offs they made and the challenges that they face. The 10 analyses in this volume—originally published on the Defense360 website—collectively provide readers with a broad overview of “Defense Outlook 2018.”

These analyses begin with a strategy overview, then look at budgets, forces, and acquisition. The remaining six analyses examine specialty topics from nuclear weapons to regional strategies.

Kathleen H. Hicks