In Oct 2022, the Pentagon released its unclassified 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), along with the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Missile Defense Review (MDR). Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in the strategy’s introduction that it will shape the department’s priorities during the coming “decisive decade—from helping to protect the American people to promoting global security, to seizing new strategic opportunities, and to realizing and defending our democratic values.” By integrating the NDS with the NPR and the MDR, the DoD says it is seeking to more clearly match its resources to its goals.
The 2022 NDS categorizes the threat from the Russian government as “acute,” encompassing the immediacy of the threat and the targeted nature of the current operational environment. While the NDS gives the Russian threat credibility and addresses the need for prompt action, assistance, support, and strong cooperation with partners and allies, it describes the Russian threat as localized and predominantly asymmetric in nature.
Two additional points stand out: First, the strategy highlights the non-traditional threats we face such as climate change and extremist threats to democratic institutions. Second, the strategy talks about escalating competition across the full spectrum of the instruments of national power. We are in constant and ever-increasing competition with potential threats in the diplomatic, informational, military and economic realms. We need to win in each of these competitions to prevent conflict.
The Biden NDS advances a strategy based on the concepts of integrated deterrence, campaigning, and building enduring advantages.
The first, integrated deterrence, is the centerpiece of the Pentagon’s Strategy. First, “integrated deterrence,” which calls for the military to work in a seamless all domain, theater and spectrum of conflict framework to deter aggression, not only within the US, but also with its international partners.
It calls for the use of “every tool at the Department’s disposal, in close collaboration with out counterparts across the U.S. Government and with Allies and partners, to ensure that potential foes understand the folly of aggression.”
The second emphasis is on campaigning to target “competitors’ coercive actions” using other instruments of national power “to undermine acute forms of competitor coercion, complicate competitors’ military preparations.” The Biden NDS defines campaigning as the “conduct and sequencing of logically-linked military activities” to “change the environment to the benefit of the United States and our Allies and partners, while limiting… competitor activities… in the gray zone.” In essence, actions in the cyber front and grey zone that will shift the security environment in favour of the US.
The third element was the importance of “building enduring advantages” through internal reforms and investments to make the US military infrastructure more resilient. This final component of the Biden NDS strikes familiar themes about technological innovation, force modernization, and defense capacity.
Inevitably, technology is a key area of competition. The strategy calls for a process of rapid experimentation, and fielding new technologies to the forces rapidly. It says that the Pentagon will push research and development for “advanced capabilities”, including directed energy, hypersonics, integrated sensing, and cyber, even while providing seed funding for bio tech, quantum science, advanced materials, and clear energy technology.
The aim of publicly releasing the strategy is to bring all the players in the sprawling US strategic community onto the same page. The NDS laid out four top priorities: 1) defending the homeland paced to the growing multi-domain threat from China; 2) deterring strategic attacks against the US and its allies and partners; 3) deterring aggression from China and Russia, while being prepared to prevail in the event of a conflict; and 4) building a resilient joint force and defence ecosystem.