After increases in the first half of the Trump administration, U.S. defense spending is set to level out. The White House’s request for 2021 is $740.5 billion, including $35 billion for the nuclear program run by the Energy Department, all of which was hammered out last year in a two-year budget deal struck by Congress and the administration. But there’s plenty of movement under that cap, thanks to Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s crusade to reorient the Pentagon to focus on fighting Russia and China, the “great power competition” of the current National Defense Strategy.
AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen has called Esper “a man on a mission, and in a hurry. The goal? To achieve “full, irreversible implementation” of the defense strategy. Pentagon officials want to take the military so far down the road that their work cannot easily be unwound by the next cadre of leaders, whenever they might arrive.”