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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The report draws on a wide range of official sources and is designed to provide an overview of official reporting on major trends rather than make an independent analysis. The U.S. provides a vast amount of detail on its annual budget request for military and international affairs spending – much of it in graphic, tabular, and summary form. The material presented here is an attempt to pick the key materials to show where the U.S. is focusing its military spending, how it relates to its strategy, how major force improvements will affect U.S. capabilities, and how the U.S. is dealing with its strategic partners and potential threats. However, the user should be aware that much of the material presented is often uncertain and is not comparable from source to source. There also is no easy or single way to summarize the trends in the U.S. defense budget. The materials that go into just the unclassified portions of the Department of Defense’s annual submission of President’s budget request to Congress, and the subsequent Congressional review of that request, run well over several thousand pages. It is also critical for the reader to understand that only the portion of the report dealing with the National Defense Authorization Act (pages 24-43) represents the final result of Congressional action and the FY2019 budget signed by the President, and not all of the portions of reference action by the key Committees involved were approved in exactly the form shown in the final bill signed by the President. Much of the material is drawn from sources that precede the final Congressional markup because the Department never updates most of the tables and charts in the Department of Defense request until the following year and new budget submission. The material presented also shows that different sources define total defense spending in different ways, and include different expenditures and convert current to constant dollars in different ways. More importantly, most sources report in terms of “Budget Authority” (BA) – the total money the Congress authorizes in a given Fiscal Year that can be spent over a period of years. This is the best estimate of what the Congress is actually approving. However, some sources in terms of “Budget Outlays” (BO) – only the money that can be spent in 12-month period of that U.S. Fiscal Year. (Which begins on 1 October of the year the Congress acts upon, and ends on 30 September of the following year). This is the best way of assessing the impact of spending on how well the budget is balanced, the size of the deficit, and impact on the federal debt. Budget projections for future years present other problems. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides detailed estimates of how the President’s budget request – and the final budgets the Congress authorizes – will impact over time. Many such estimates precede Congressional action on the budget, and it then takes several months for the CBO to estimate the probable future trends in the total federal budget and impact of the final Congressionally approved levels of U.S. defense spending on that total federal budget and the U.S. GDP. This often creates major lags in official estimates of the trends in every aspect of federal spending, the budget deficit, and the national debt. More broadly, the Department of Defense has effectively abandoned any serious effort to create a program budget, and to provide a realistic estimate of the cost of the Future Year Defense Program beyond the fiscal year directly under review. It essentially rolls forward current activities and plans to make estimates of the next four years that are based on the spending levels in the budget year under review. It bases such estimates largely on input categories such as personnel, O&M, RDT&E, and procurement. The Department of Defense does not report expenditures by major mission or command. The Department defines “strategy” largely in terms of broad concepts and goals. It does not tie its “strategy” to net assessments of the balance in terms of threats and strategic partners, to specific force plans, to specific actions and schedules, to specific costs, or to measures of success and effectiveness. Unclassified reporting in “PPB” – or planning, programming, and budgeting– form has become a functional oxymoron. The Congress does hold strategy hearings and directs studies of key strategic issues, but these efforts rarely address any of the practical details of any aspect of the nature and cost of U.S. strategy. Similarly, the outyear estimates of military spending by the Department of Defense, OMB, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focus on a “baseline” that assumes the United States does not actually use its military forces in any operational form. The limited estimates provided for future Overseas Contingency Operations are “placeholders” and not actual estimates. This is partly inevitable given the inability to predict the future, but it creates a practical problem in a country whose civil plans call for major future increases in mandatory spending on retirement, medical case, and welfare. This means the official U.S. projections of civil spending rise relative to military spending in ways history indicates will be highly unrealistic.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Budget
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, North America
  • Author: James Andrew Lewis
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Gulf has become a flashpoint for cyber conflict. Cyberspace has become an arena for covert struggle, with the United States, Israel and other nations on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other. Iran has far outpaced the GCC states in developing its cyber capabilities, both for monitoring internal dissent and deploying hackers to disrupt or attack foreign targets. Several such attacks over the past two years were likely either directed or permitted by Iranian state authorities. Even if Iran holds back from offensive actions as nuclear talks progress, the growth in Iranian capabilities remains a potential security threat for other Gulf states. The GCC countries have begun to develop their defensive capabilities, but they will need to expand their defenses and collaborate more effectively to deter future threats.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Defense Policy, Development, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Over the years since the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Southern Gulf states and the US have developed a de facto strategic partnership based on a common need to deter and defend against any threat from Iran, deal with regional instability in countries like Iraq and Yemen, counter the threat of terrorism and extremism, and deal with the other threats to the flow of Gulf petroleum exports.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia, North America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Creating an effective transition for the ANSF is only one of the major challenges that Afghanistan, the US, and Afghanistan's other allies face during 2014-2015 and beyond.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Internal ethnic and sectarian tensions, civil conflict, continued instability, failed governance and economy. Syrian civil war. Iraq, Lebanon, “Shi'ite crescent.” Sectarian warfare and struggle for future of Islam through and outside region. Sunni on Sunni and vs. Shi'ite struggles Terrorism, insurgency, civil conflict linked to outside state and non-state actors. Wars of influence and intimidation Asymmetric conflicts escalating to conventional conflicts. Major “conventional” conflict threats: Iran-Arab Gulf, Arab-Israeli, etc. Economic warfare: sanctions, “close the Gulf,” etc. Missile and long-range rocket warfare Proliferation, preventive strikes, containment, nuclear arms race, extended deterrence, “weapons of mass effectiveness”.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Far too much of the analysis of Iran's search for nuclear weapons treats it in terms of arms control or focuses on the potential threat to Israel. In reality, Iran's mix of asymmetric warfare, conventional warfare, and conventionally armed missile forces have critical weaknesses that make Iran anything but the hegemon of the Gulf. Iran's public focus on Israel also disguises the reality that its primary strategic focus is to deter and intimidate its Gulf neighbors and the United States – not Israel. It has made major progress in creating naval forces for asymmetric warfare and developing naval missiles, but it has very limited air-sea and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (IS) capabilities. It lacks modern conventional land, air, air defense and sea power, has fallen far behind the Arab Gulf states in modern aircraft and ships, and its land forces are filled with obsolete and mediocre weapons that lack maneuver capability and sustainability outside Iran. Iran needs nuclear weapons to offset these facts.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: More than a decade into the “war on terrorism,” much of the political debate in the US is still fixated on the legacy of 9/11. US politics has a partisan fixation on Benghazi, the Boston Marathon bombing, intelligence intercepts, and Guantanamo. Far too much US attention still focuses on “terrorism” at a time the US faces a much broader range of threats from the instability in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) and Islamic world. Moreover, much of the US debate ignores the fact that the US has not actually fought a “war on terrorism” over the last decade, and the US failures in using military force and civil aid in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US has not fought wars as such, but rather became involved in exercises in armed nation building where stability operations escalated into national building as a result of US occupation and where the failures in stability operations and nation building led to insurgencies that forced the US into major counterinsurgency campaigns that had little to do with counterterrorism. An analysis of the trends in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts shows that the US has not been fighting a war on terrorism since Bin Laden and Al Qaida Central were driven into Pakistan in December 2001. The US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and then made stability operations and armed nation building its key goals. It was US mishandling of these exercises in armed nation building that led to major counterinsurgency campaigns although – at least in the case of Afghanistan --the US continued to label its military operations as a struggle against “terrorism.” By 2013, the US had committed well over $1.4 trillion to these exercises in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, the US made massive increases in its domestic spending on homeland defense that it rationalized as part of the fight against terrorism but often had little or nothing to do with any aspect of counterterrorism. At the same time, the US failed to develop consistent or useful unclassified statistics on the patterns in terrorism and its counterterrorism activities. The US government has never provided a meaningful break out of federal activities and spending at home or abroad which actually focus on terrorism, or any unclassified measures of effectiveness. The OMB has lumped a wide range of activities that have no relation to terrorism it its reporting on the President's budget request – activities whose total cost now approach $60 billion a year. The Department of Defense has never provided a meaningful estimate of the total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or a break out of the small portion of total overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending actually spent on counterterrorism versus counter insurgency. The State Department and US intelligence community provide no meaningful unclassified data on the cost of their counterterrorism effort and it is unclear that they have developed any metrics at any level that show the cost-benefits of their activities. The annual US State Department country reports on terrorism come as close to an unclassified report on the status of terrorism as the US government provides. While many portions are useful, the designation of terrorist movements is often political and shows the US designation of terrorist movements conflates terrorism and insurgency. The closest the US has come to developing any metrics on terrorism has been to develop an unclassified database in the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) that never distinguished terrorism from insurgency. This database formed the core of the statistical annex to State Department reporting, but has since been withdrawn without explanation. As this analysis shows in detail, it now has been replaced by a contractor effort that makes all of the previous mistakes made by the NCTC. The end result is a set of official reporting and statistics in the annex to the State Department report where “terrorism” remains remained poorly defined, badly structured, ignored in parts of the world, and conflates terrorism with counterinsurgency, instability, and civil war. A review of the Afghan, Iraq conflicts, and other recent conflicts in the MENA region shows just how serious these problems are in distorting the true nature of the wars the US is fighting and the threats it faces. The same is true of the unclassified reporting the US government provides on terrorism. A detailed review of the most recent State Department report on terrorism provides important insights into key terrorist movements, but the narratives generally ignore their ties to insurgent movements, their statistical data include some major insurgent movements and exclude others, and many of the data seem to include violence that is not truly terroristic in character.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States has long emphasized the desirability of working with allies and partners to meet pressing security challenges. Indeed, many of our most vexing security challenges-such as terrorism, threats to freedom of the seas and air, and cyber threats-are best met with multilateral action. At a time when the United States and many of its allies and partners are reluctant to increase defense and security investments, working together is of increasing importance. This is perhaps most evident in the Middle East and Asia, where real and potential threats to U.S. and partner security are high and our interests great.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Bryan Gold
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: No single aspect of US and Iranian military competition is potentially more dangerous than the missile and nuclear dimensions, and the possibility Iran will deploy long-range, nuclear-armed missiles.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The US may not face peer threats in the near to mid term, but it faces a wide variety of lesser threats that make maintaining effective military forces, foreign aid, and other national security programs a vital national security interest. The US does need to reshape its national security planning and strategy to do a far better job of allocating resources to meet these threats. It needs to abandon theoretical and conceptual exercises in strategy that do not focus on detailed force plans, manpower plans, procurement plans, and budgets; and use its resources more wisely. The US still dominates world military spending, but it must recognize that maintaining the US economy is a vital national security interest in a world where the growth and development of other nations and regions means that the relative share the US has in the global economy will decline steadily over time, even under the best circumstances. At the same time, US dependence on the security and stability of the global economy will continue to grow indefinitely in the future. Talk of any form of “independence,” including freedom from energy imports, is a dangerous myth. The US cannot maintain and grow its economy without strong military forces and effective diplomatic and aid efforts. US military and national security spending already places a far lower burden on the US economy than during the peaceful periods of the Cold War, and existing spending plans will lower that burden in the future. National security spending is now averaging between 4% and 5% of the GDP -- in spite of the fact the US has been fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- versus 6 - 7% during the Cold War.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East