http://www.nbr.org - NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

The United States: A Strong Foundation but Weak Blueprint for National Security

Dennis C. Blair

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This chapter assesses U.S. national resources, U.S. competence in converting those resources into national power, and the adequacy of current and future defense budgets and force structures.

Main Argument

The U.S. possesses a large, balanced, dynamic, and adaptive economy. Other major strengths include a rich supply of natural resources, favorable demographic profile, and extensive network of alliances and partnerships. Although the U.S. has the potential to continue world leadership, national performance in recent years has declined. Economic weaknesses include too few skilled workers, obsolete infrastructure, and lack of energy security. In addition, the government has recently been unable to balance budgets, and legislation on immigration reform, energy security, and tax reform has failed. In the area of national security, the U.S. is hampered by an obsolete government structure and has not forged a bipartisan national security strategy supported by the public since the end of the Cold War. Some individual regional strategies—for example, in East Asia and Africa—have been consistent and largely successful, but U.S. policy in other areas—most notably in the Middle East—has fallen short. U.S. military power is still the strongest in the world. However, to meet likely future missions under constrained budgets, its current structure and equipment will have to be adjusted.

Policy Implications

  • U.S. strengths are structural and enduring, while weaknesses can be overcome with the restoration of a political consensus to solve national problems.
  • The greatest national security imperatives are updating the national security structure and the development of a bipartisan, publicly supported strategy for the complex future international environment.
  • Within that strategy, the most pressing tasks are forging an enduring strategy for the Middle East and East Asia and making hard choices in the defense budget and force structure.