The Pentagon begins 2018 again operating under a stopgap funding measure that limits spending while officials begin a systematic restructuring of the department and anticipate further changes prescribed by a flurry of reports due in coming months.
A new National Defense Strategy (NDS) focusing on streamlining the Pentagon bureaucracy and achieving greater efficiency is expected in early February. The NDS will lay out the administration’s prescribed role for the military within the larger National Security strategy rolled out in December.
In turn, the NDS will provide a policy foundation for the fiscal year 2019 budget the Defense Department is expected to submit on time in February, though Congress has not yet approved the fiscal 2018 budget, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan. The government is running on a continuing resolution that expires at midnight on Jan. 19.
“I expect the budget to come out on time,” Shanahan said during a Dec. 21 on-the-record meeting with reporters at the Pentagon. “That's the plan that we're on track to perform to. … I can't remember what the statistic is, but it's happened less often than more often. But I think we're on, we're on track for that. We're hoping that the 2018 budget comes out before the 2019 budget. But, you know, we'll see how that plays out.”
Also due in February are two major policy documents outlining the future of U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense capabilities. The forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will set U.S. nuclear policy for up to a decade, including an examination of all three legs of the nuclear triad and the status of existing arms control agreements. A separate ballistic missile defense review will lay out priorities for regional, theater and strategic missile defense.
Jan. 2 was Jay Gibson’s first day as the Defense Department’s chief management officer, in which role he will streamline the business side of the Defense Department and identify opportunities to save time and money on back-office drudge work.
Former Senate Armed Services staffer Ben Fitzgerald also began work Jan. 2 as director of the Office of Strategy and Design, a position that will serve as the “central hub” for the reorganization of the Defense Department’s acquisition bureaucracy.
Handing off those processes will allow Shanahan to focus on crafting a 2020 budget that will pay for the modernization priorities laid out in the NDS. The Trump administration initially envisioned a three-step process that would rebuild the U.S. military as it saw fit. The first step was adding $30 billion to the fiscal 2017 budget followed by its $639 billion submission for the current fiscal year that Congress has not yet passed.
In fiscal 2019, the administration was supposed to begin massive investment in future technologies to modernize the military services’ weapons and platforms. That step has now been pushed to fiscal 2020, Shanahan said. The program objective memorandum (POM) for 2020 laying out the department’s investment strategy for the next five years should be the “masterpiece” that funds extensive modernization programs, he said.
“This is where many of the bets in terms of innovation and some of the new technology will take place,” he said.