Here’s what military families should know about Trump’s national security strategy


(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Gordon/Released)

The 2017 National Security Strategy, released by the Trump administration in December, is a lot for service members and their families to sift through. Spanning a whopping 55 pages, the strategy can be boiled down to four basic points, and we have pulled out the most important points for you in this article.

We are presenting the information here in a straightforward manner, with no fanciful conjecturing, referencing specific points of the strategy that may affect military families. To read the strategy on your own, click here for the original version. Note that a strategy is not a specific course of action, but rather a general overview that acts as a guide so American citizens have an idea of what they can expect from the administration and the president.

For President Trump, the National Security Strategy lives up to some major campaign promises: “The American people elected me to make America great again. I promised that my Administration would put the safety, interests, and well-being of our citizens first. I pledged that we would revitalize the American economy, rebuild our military, defend our borders, protect our sovereignty, and advance our values,” he writes in the introduction. It is very much an “America first” perspective that the strategy works from.

The strategy can be broken down into four vital national security interests or pillars:

Pillar I: Protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life

  1. Secure U.S. borders and territory — This includes defending against and mitigating the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, combatting biothreats and pandemics, and strengthening border control and immigration policy enforcement.
  2. Pursue threats to their source — The focus is on defeating “Jihadist terrorists” and dismantling transnational criminal organizations that bring drugs, violence, and gang-related crimes into the U.S.
  3. Keep America safe in the cyber era — To prevent and mitigate cyber attacks, the U.S. must fund research and partner with private enterprise to strengthen security for both government and civilian networks.
  4. Promote American resilience — The U.S. should redesign information-sharing and emergency response to ensure that Americans can be prepared for and recover from threats, natural disasters, accidents, and deliberate attacks.

The takeaway for military families: A commitment to combating biothreats could mean that service members are deployed in support of outbreak management as we saw with the Ebola crisis in West Africa beginning in 2014. Pursuing threats to the source could mean more troops deployed to fight against groups like ISIS. Assistance during threats, natural disasters, or attacks could mobilize National Guard members, with stronger state and federal coordination than in the past.

Pillar II: Promote American prosperity

  1. Rejuvenate the domestic economy — This means loosening some regulations (specifically for businesses), promoting tax reform, improving American infrastructure, reducing the debt using fiscal responsibility, and supporting education and apprenticeship programs.
  2. Promote free, fair, and reciprocal economic relationships — There will be a focus on adopting new trade and investment agreements, while modernizing those that already exist; countering unfair trade practices and foreign corruption; working with like-minded partners that place an emphasis on free, fair, and reciprocal trade agreements; and facilitating new market opportunities for American goods and services.
  3. Promote and protect the U.S. national security innovation base — In short, the U.S. must better protect its intellectual property; tighten visa procedures to protect against non-traditional intelligence gatherers (to ensure that research, development, and innovation stays within the U.S. rather than taken to countries like China or Russia), while recruiting from the best STEM individuals within the U.S. first; and protect data and underlying infrastructure against espionage and theft.
  4. Lead in research, technology, invention, and innovation — The U.S. will track international science and technology trends; attract and retain new inventors and innovators, particularly in STEM fields; leverage private capital and expertise to build and innovate; and rapidly field inventions and innovations.
  5. Embrace energy dominance — In short, the U.S. must become a leading producer, consumer, and innovator of energy technology while balancing energy security, economic development, and environmental protection. This can happen by reducing regulatory barriers and streamlining the approval processes for things like oil pipelines, export terminals, and container shipping; promoting the export of energy sources, technology, and services; ensuring American energy security; and moving forward with new and existing energy technology like better nuclear reactors and batteries, carbon-capture technology, and more.

The takeaway for military families: As this point mostly deals with domestic economics and business, there isn’t much of a takeaway for military families. Americans are, however, already seeing some changes with tax reform and the easing of regulations to help boost the economy. We’ve seen relaxed regulatory constraint on energy pipeline development already.

Pillar III: Preserve peace through strength

  1. Renew America’s competitive advantages — Basically, America should raise its game compared to other nations around the globe to meet future challenges, protect American interests, and advance our values. The strategy argues that the best way to do that is in the next point.
  2. Renew capabilities among:
  • The military: Modernize current weapons systems and develop new ones; make better deals to have quick, affordable options that work using an improved acquisitions process; reverse Obama-era cuts to military forces; ensure readiness with a renewed focus on training, logistics, and management; and retain a full-spectrum force encompassing a variety of entities.
  • The defense industrial base: Understand the problem as it relates to the defense industrial base, encourage homeland investment, and protect and grow critical skills related to STEM and national security technologies.
  • Cyberspace: Support and improve the ability to attribute cyber attacks to allow for rapid response, enhance cyber tools and expertise, and improve the integration of government authorities and procedures so that cyber operations against adversaries can be conducted as needed.
  • Nuclear forces: Sustain a nuclear force, modernize the nuclear triad (air, land, and sea delivery systems), and build relationships with other nations to reduce nuclear risk.
  • Space: Advance space as a priority domain, promote commercial space competitiveness, and maintain the lead in exploration of space.
  • Intelligence: Improve understanding of economic espionage to better prevent the theft of sensitive information, harness all the information at our disposal to prevent attacks, and fuse all information received from diplomatic, information, military, and economic domains to effectively compete against other nations.
  1. Focus on competitive, information, and economic diplomacy — Preserve a diplomatic presence where U.S. interests are at stake, advance American interests, search for opportunities for diplomatic engagement, reinforce economic ties with allies and partners, prioritize competition, drive effective communication, use local networks to spur diplomacy, share responsibility with local governments in at-risk nations, focus on and upgrade the American message, and put economic pressure on security threats by severing funding to nations associated with terrorism, WMD proliferation or development, and other illicit activity.

The takeaway for military families: This is a major point for military families, so let’s break it down. The American military, historically, has played a significant role in protecting American interests and sometimes in advancing our values around the world. Renewing military capabilities would mean new and/or improved weapons systems, acquired through a more fiscally responsible process, that are more effective against a modern threat. Improved readiness would mean more high quality training opportunities for military members and better communication and coordination among government entities.

Pillar IV: Advance American influence

  1. Encourage aspiring partners —
  • For developing nations, the U.S. should mobilize resources, capitalize on new technologies, and incentivize reforms that improve governance, rule of law, and sustainable development.
  • For fragile states, the U.S. should commit to nations that may pose a threat (such as our current efforts in Afghanistan), work with reformers, and use diplomatic, economic, and military assets to assist nations that seek a better relationship with the U.S.
  1. Achieve better outcomes in multilateral forums — This happens by exercising leadership in political and security arenas, shaping and reforming international financials and trade institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, ensuring common domains remain free, and protecting a free and open global internet.
  2. Champion American values — In short, the U.S. should, around the globe, support the dignity of individuals, defeat transnational terrorist organizations, empower women and youth, protect religious freedom and religious minorities, and reduce human suffering.

The takeaway for military families: As mentioned earlier, the U.S. military has often been used to advance American influence, sometimes in a humanitarian effort through diplomacy. Different branches of the U.S. military are currently working in the Middle East in a number of countries to fight against ISIS and the spread of the terror network. This plan suggests that threats will be met with not only action, but an evolution in ideals like equality, human rights, and religious freedom.

While we can’t accurately state exactly what this strategy means for military families, we can make some assessments based on some of the information provided. Military families should prepare themselves for what we know: Deployments, separations, increased training and things we’ve already experienced. And we can watch it all play out.

By Sarah Peachey

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