Does Ukraine’s Crisis Override Pentagon’s Defense Strategy?

The president’s nominee to be the Defense Department’s policy chief says no.

Berkut riot police hang a Ukrainian flag from a street light on Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 10, 2014, 1:40 p.m.

Even though a re­cently re­leased de­fense-strategy re­port scarcely men­tions Rus­sia, don’t ex­pect the Pentagon to brush it aside any­time soon.

A “whole­sale redo” of the re­view, which broadly out­lines the De­fense De­part­ment’s strategy every four years, isn’t ne­ces­sary — des­pite the crisis in Ukraine, Christine Wor­muth, deputy un­der­sec­ret­ary of de­fense for strategy, plans, and force de­vel­op­ment, said Monday.

The 64-page doc­u­ment, which came out March 4, made little men­tion of Rus­sia, ded­ic­at­ing just one para­graph to out­lining the pos­sible risks it may pose to Wash­ing­ton’s or its al­lies’ in­terests.

The doc­u­ment did note that some of Rus­sia’s mil­it­ary ac­tions could “vi­ol­ate the sov­er­eignty of its neigh­bors” and “present risks,” adding that the United States will try to work with Rus­sia to “re­duce the risk of mil­it­ary mis­cal­cu­la­tion.”

But the Pentagon’s re­view is “kind of broadly en­vi­sioned and would al­low us to kind of do the kinds of things that we need to do to both sup­port the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine and re­as­sure our NATO al­lies,” Wor­muth said.

But if the De­fense De­part­ment wants to be able to tackle a swath of is­sues out­lined in the de­fense re­view — ran­ging from con­tain­ing Rus­si­an in­flu­ence or shift­ing the U.S. fo­cus to the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion — it will need Con­gress to cough up the ex­tra $115 bil­lion over five years the ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­ques­ted in its five-year budget plan, Wor­muth said.

“This is not a post-Cold War, early-90s kind of se­cur­ity en­vir­on­ment,” said Wor­muth, who is also the pres­id­ent’s nom­in­ee to be­come the de­part­ment’s un­der­sec­ret­ary for policy. “You can’t live in a man­sion if you’re work­ing on a middle-class salary. At a cer­tain point we are go­ing to have to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of na­tion do we want to be?’ “

What We're Following See More »
DOJ: North Carolina’s CB2 Violates Civil Rights Act
35 minutes ago

Department of Justice officials told North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that "the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX—a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. The department gave state officials until Monday to respond 'by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.'"

Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
8 hours ago

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
14 hours ago
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
15 hours ago

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
16 hours ago

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.