Reinforcing the Frontline: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China. With some of the world’s largest economies, most vital sea lanes, and closest U.S. allies, the Asia-Pacific Region is quickly becoming centrally important to today’s international system. It is also home to the first new great power of the twenty-first century: the People’s Republic of China. Managing China’s rise will not be easy. In recent years, Beijing has been modernizing its military forces, acting more assertively, and raising the risk of escalation, especially with respect to territorial disputes throughout its near seas. This report outlines the key elements of a U.S. defense strategy for the region—one that is based on the enduring grand strategy of global leadership and engagement, but also recognizes the challenges posed by China’s growing military power.
Extended Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age: Geopolitics, Proliferation, and the Future of U.S. Security Commitments. Ever since the early days of the Cold War, extended nuclear deterrence has been one of the most important but challenging aspects of American strategy. During the past 25 years, however, many of the extended deterrence dilemmas that preoccupied U.S. policymakers in the past ceased to be a major source of concern. That is starting to change. With the return of great power security competition and the emergence of a second nuclear era, a number of questions have once again become relevant: Is the United States’ current approach to extended nuclear deterrence likely to remain adequate? Does it have the right tools in place to prevent competitors from challenging the status quo and to convince allies that they can rely on Washington? If not, how might it adapt its extended nuclear deterrence posture to preserve stability across the regions that concern it most?
The Cost of U.S. Nuclear Forces: From BCA to Bow Wave and Beyond (with Todd Harrison). This report provides an in-depth accounting of what U.S. nuclear forces really cost and tackles the issue of how much money could actually be saved by cutting those forces. We find that the Pentagon will require as much as $12–13 billion per year in additional funding to support nuclear maintenance and modernization during the 2020s, when spending on U.S. nuclear forces will peak. At most, however, nuclear spending will still account for only 5 percent of total defense spending, even if the BCA budget caps are extended indefinitely. Moreover, plausible options to reduce spending levels within the next five years— when the budget caps are slated to remain in effect—would only account for a small fraction of the difference between the president’s current budget proposal and existing spending caps. In other words, nuclear reductions would not provide much savings when those savings are needed most.
The Future of America’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. Over the past several years, calls for Washington to substantially reduce the size of its nuclear arsenal have become more prevalent, while the combination of declining budgets and looming recapitalization costs have made nuclear weapons a popular target for potential funding cuts. This report addresses the following issues: Can the United States implement deep reductions in strategic nuclear weapons and still deter rivals, dissuade competitors, and discourage proliferation? Should it retain the strategic triad of bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines? Finally, must it replace its aging nuclear forces?
Rethinking the Road to Zero. The long-term goal of a nuclear weapons-free world is motivated by understandable concerns, and is a reflection of the profound changes that have taken place over the past two decades. Nevertheless, before the United States moves quickly to another round of nuclear reductions, it is important to reconsider the debate over disarmament, the logic behind the global zero argument, and the potential consequences of a major drawdown in U.S. nuclear forces. This paper argues that the process of disarmament could actually incentivize other nations to develop nuclear weapons rather than slowing nuclear proliferation.
Defense Planning for the Long Haul: Scenarios, Operational Concepts, and the Future Security Environment. The United States is likely to confront diverse challenges over the coming decades: terrorist groups, weak states, and the intersection between them; a near-peer competitor that is attempting to counter the U.S. power projection; and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to aggressive regimes and potentially non-state actors. These challenges represent a significant departure from those the U.S. military has focused its attention on in the past, particularly the large-scale, ground-centric conventional conflicts that dominated military planning during the Cold War and the post-Cold War period. Preparing for these challenges will therefore require significant changes in both the capabilities that the U.S. military develops and how they are employed.
Reshaping America’s Alliances for the Long Haul. For more than half a century alliances have been a crucial source of advantage for the United States. Today, there is a growing recognition that existing and prospective threats require a renewed emphasis on alliances. America’s current alliances are by and large an artifact of the Cold War, however, and it is not clear that they are adequate for helping the United States meet its security challenges. Nor is it clear what role America’s current allies should be asked to play. The purpose of this report is to consider how the current U.S. alliance portfolio should be revised to address the challenges that the United States is likely to confront in the years ahead.
Nuclear Terrorism: Assessing the Threat, Developing a Response. Over the past several years, the prospect of a terrorist group armed with a nuclear weapon has frequently been cited as a major threat to the security of the United States. Yet a number of important questions remain open to debate: How real is the risk that a terrorist group could acquire or construct a functional nuclear device, and how might it attempt to do so? Which group poses the greatest threat, how has that threat changed over time, and is it growing or abating? What measures could prove most effective in preventing terrorists from obtaining a nuclear weapon, stopping them from using a weapon if prevention fails, and responding in the event that an attack succeeds? The purpose of this report is to examine these issues.
Managing China’s Missile Threat: Future Options to Preserve Forward Defense. This testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission discusses the implications of China’s offensive missile forces. I argue that in the face of an eroding conventional military advantage in the Western Pacific, the United States faces acute challenges to its forward defense posture. Fielding offensive missile forces might partially ameliorate this problem, enhancing deterrence and improving crisis stability. While the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia prohibits the United States from testing and deploying surface-to-surface ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, Russia has not complied with the Treaty’s restrictions and China is not a party to the Treaty. Withdrawing from or revising the Treaty could bolster U.S. Western Pacific defense posture and potentially drive a wedge between China and Russia.