What Biden’s National Security Strategy Fails to Do

The Biden administration’s long-awaited National Security Strategy (NSS) was released this week to mixed reviews. On one level, it reads like a continuation of the Trump strategy of focusing on great power competition as the guiding principle for US engagement with the rest of the world, backstopped by “the strongest military in the world.” But to the administration’s credit, the strategy document also references addressing non-military challenges and promoting cooperation with allies and adversaries alike as integral components of any plan to promote US and global security in the decades to come.

It’s almost as if the NSS is two separate documents mashed together — one focused on traditional military threats (and threat inflation) and another on non-military risks like climate change, which the strategy describes as “the existential challenge of our time.” But there is no recognition of the fact that pursuing genuine cooperation will require scaling back plans premised on dominance and confrontation.

In addition to the focus on climate change, other positive elements of the NSS — issues that were largely ignored or even ridiculed during the Trump years — include pledges to invest in preventing pandemics; reducing global inequality; addressing the divisions that are threatening the future of American democracy, and helping to foster economic development in countries that are struggling to meet the needs of their people. The question is whether these problems will attract the kind of resources and attention currently being lavished on military tools of influence.


The NSS is being released against the backdrop of one of the sharpest increases in Pentagon spending in history, spurred in part by hefty budgetary requests by the Biden administration and in part by congressional efforts to add tens of billions of dollars in military spending beyond what the Pentagon has even asked for. The result is a potential “national security” budget of roughly $850 billion for the fiscal year 2023, mostly for spending on the Pentagon and work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy.

Read the full piece in Inkstick Media.