The New U.S. National Defense Strategy for 2022

The U.S. Department of Defense has just issued an unclassified National Defense Strategy for 2022. A copy of the full text is attached as a download at the end of this commentary. In general, it highlights the past U.S. emphasis on the Russian and Chinese threats and lesser threats from states like Iran and North Korea, and it does provide more details about future plans than most of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews and other National Defense Strategy documents the United States has issued over the last two decades. It also includes some broad sections on future priorities and force planning that provide a broad perspective on how the United States is seeking to shape and improve its military capabilities, although they again only discuss very general goals.

Like its predecessors, it does not describe anything approaching a full U.S. strategy. The is no meaningful content describing future goals for defense spending, no clear definition of how it will actually develop an integrated strategy, little discussion of any major new programs, and no discussion of future force plans. Equally important, there are no meaningful net assessments of key threats like Russia and China and no specific plans to improve U.S. strategic partnerships.

At the same time, many of the broad policy statements in the new strategy are positive, making it clear that the United States intends to work closely with its strategic partners and allies, and are specific enough to reassure our partners and friendly states. There is no focus on shifting the burden to allied states, the weakening of existing U.S. commitments, or focus on Asia to the exclusion of other regions. It is also clear that the United States will keep making major advances in military technology and in joint warfare.

The new strategy also does include two detailed annexes in the form of a 2020 Nuclear Posture Review and a 2022 Missile Defense Review. These annexes do present some useful new details about future national plans to improve nuclear deterrence in the face of Russian and Chinese increases in nuclear capability and do discuss some priorities and aspects of force planning in more concrete terms. As such they represent a tangible counter to some of the public statements Russia and China had issued about improving their nuclear forces and criticizing the United States and provide a good potential path to broader allied emphasis on deploying missile and air defenses.

Moreover, the Department of Defense did issue a number of fact sheets shortly after it issued the National Defense Strategy, which are also attached as downloads at the end of this commentary.

They include:

  • Integrated Deterrence and Building Enduring Advantages
  • Arms Control and Counter Proliferation
  • U.S. Extended Deterrence
  • U.S. Nuclear Capabilities and Modernization
  • U.S. Deterrence Strategy and Policy
  • The 2022 Missile Defense Review

A close reading of these fact sheets often provides a clearer picture of U.S. plans and intentions. It shows that the United States remains firmly committed to arms control efforts but is actively matching Russian and Chinese increases in nuclear capability and modernization, and is reviving extended deterrence and theater nuclear options. They also highlight the fact the United States is seeking to develop advanced new missile and air defenses to deal with even the most advanced new strike systems in ways that will defend the United States and protect its allies and partners.

Full Report:

2022 National Defense Strategy:

Fact Sheets:

Integrated Deterrence, Building Enduring Advantages, and Campaigning:

Extended Deterrence:

U.S. Nuclear Capabilities and Modernization:

U.S. Deterrence Strategy and Policy:

Arms Control and Nuclear Non-Proliferation:

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Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy