A core responsibility of the U.S. Government is to protect the American people â€“
in the words of the framers of our Constitution, to â€œprovide for the common
defense.â€ For more than 230 years, the U.S. Armed Forces have served as a
bulwark of liberty, opportunity, and prosperity at home. Beyond our shores,
America shoulders additional responsibilities on behalf of the world. For those
struggling for a better life, there is and must be no stronger advocate than the
United States. We remain a beacon of light for those in dark places, and for this
reason we should remember that our actions and words signal the depth of our
strength and resolve. For our friends and allies, as well as for our enemies and
potential adversaries, our commitment to democratic values must be matched by
our deeds. The spread of liberty both manifests our ideals and protects our
The United States, our allies, and our partners face a spectrum of challenges,
including violent transnational extremist networks, hostile states armed with
weapons of mass destruction, rising regional powers, emerging space and cyber
threats, natural and pandemic disasters, and a growing competition for resources.
The Department of Defense must respond to these challenges while anticipating
and preparing for those of tomorrow. We must balance strategic risk across our
responses, making the best use of the tools at hand within the U.S. Government
and among our international partners. To succeed, we must harness and integrate
all aspects of national power and work closely with a wide range of allies, friends
and partners. We cannot prevail if we act alone.
The Presidentâ€™s 2006 National Security Strategy (NSS) describes an approach
founded on two pillars: promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity by
working to end tyranny, promote effective democracies, and extend prosperity;
and confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of
democracies. It seeks to foster a world of well-governed states that can meet the
needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international
system. This approach represents the best way to provide enduring security for the
The National Defense Strategy (NDS) serves as the Departmentâ€™s capstone
document in this long-term effort. It flows from the NSS and informs the National
Military Strategy. It also provides a framework for other DoD strategic guidance,
specifically on campaign and contingency planning, force development, and
intelligence. It reflects the results of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review
(QDR) and lessons learned from on-going operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and
elsewhere. It addresses how the U.S. Armed Forces will fight and win Americaâ€™s
wars and how we seek to work with and through partner nations to shape
opportunities in the international environment to enhance security and avert
The NDS describes our overarching goals and strategy. It outlines how DoD will
support the objectives outlined in the NSS, including the need to strengthen
alliances and build new partnerships to defeat global terrorism and prevent attacks
against us, our allies, and our friends; prevent our enemies from threatening us,
our allies, and our friends with weapons of mass destruction (WMD); work with
others to defuse regional conflicts, including conflict intervention; and transform
national security institutions to face the challenges of the 21st century. The NDS
acts on these objectives, evaluates the strategic environment, challenges, and risks
we must consider in achieving them, and maps the way forward.
The Strategic Environment
For the foreseeable future, this environment will be defined by a global struggle
against a violent extremist ideology that seeks to overturn the international state
system. Beyond this transnational struggle, we face other threats, including a
variety of irregular challenges, the quest by rogue states for nuclear weapons, and
the rising military power of other states. These are long-term challenges. Success
in dealing with them will require the orchestration of national and international
power over years or decades to come.
Violent extremist movements such as al-Qaeda and its associates comprise a
complex and urgent challenge. Like communism and fascism before it, todayâ€™s
violent extremist ideology rejects the rules and structures of the international
system. Its adherents reject state sovereignty, ignore borders, and attempt to deny
self-determination and human dignity wherever they gain power. These extremists
opportunistically exploit respect for these norms for their own purposes, hiding
behind international norms and national laws when it suits them, and attempting to
subvert them when it does not. Combating these violent groups will require longterm, innovative approaches.
The inability of many states to police themselves effectively or to work with their
neighbors to ensure regional security represents a challenge to the international
system. Armed sub-national groups, including but not limited to those inspired by
violent extremism, threaten the stability and legitimacy of key states. If left
unchecked, such instability can spread and threaten regions of interest to the
United States, our allies, and friends. Insurgent groups and other non-state actors
frequently exploit local geographical, political, or social conditions to establish
safe havens from which they can operate with impunity. Ungoverned, undergoverned,
misgoverned, and contested areas offer fertile ground for such groups to
exploit the gaps in governance capacity of local regimes to undermine local
stability and regional security. Addressing this problem will require local
partnerships and creative approaches to deny extremists the opportunity to gain
Rogue states such as Iran and North Korea similarly threaten international order.
The Iranian regime sponsors terrorism and is attempting to disrupt the fledgling
democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranâ€™s pursuit of nuclear technology and
enrichment capabilities poses a serious challenge to security in an already volatile
region. The North Korean regime also poses a serious nuclear and missile
proliferation concern for the U.S. and other responsible international stakeholders.
The regime threatens the Republic of Korea with its military and its neighbors
with its missiles. Moreover, North Korea creates instability with its illicit activity,
such as counterfeiting U.S. currency and trafficking in narcotics, and brutal
treatment of its own people.
We must also consider the possibility of challenges by more powerful states.
Some may actively seek to counter the United States in some or all domains of
traditional warfare or to gain an advantage by developing capabilities that offset
our own. Others may choose niche areas of military capability and competition in
which they believe they can develop a strategic or operational advantage. That
some of these potential competitors also are partners in any number of diplomatic,
commercial, and security efforts will only make these relationships more difficult
China is one ascendant state with the potential for competing with the United
States. For the foreseeable future, we will need to hedge against Chinaâ€™s growing
military modernization and the impact of its strategic choices upon international
security. It is likely that China will continue to expand its conventional military
capabilities, emphasizing anti-access and area denial assets including developing a
full range of long-range strike, space, and information warfare capabilities.
Our interaction with China will be long-term and multi-dimensional and will
involve peacetime engagement between defense establishments as much as fielded
combat capabilities. The objective of this effort is to mitigate near term challenges
while preserving and enhancing U.S. national advantages over time.
Russiaâ€™s retreat from openness and democracy could have significant security
implications for the United States, our European allies, and our partners in other
regions. Russia has leveraged the revenue from, and access to, its energy sources;
asserted claims in the Arctic; and has continued to bully its neighbors, all of which
are causes for concern. Russia also has begun to take a more active military
stance, such as the renewal of long-range bomber flights, and has withdrawn from
arms control and force reduction treaties, and even threatened to target countries
hosting potential U.S. anti-missile bases. Furthermore, Moscow has signaled an
increasing reliance on nuclear weapons as a foundation of its security. All of these
actions suggest a Russia exploring renewed influence, and seeking a greater
U.S. dominance in conventional warfare has given prospective adversaries,
particularly non-state actors and their state sponsors, strong motivation to adopt
asymmetric methods to counter our advantages. For this reason, we must display a
mastery of irregular warfare comparable to that which we possess in conventional
combat. Our adversaries also seek to develop or acquire catastrophic capabilities:
chemical, biological, and especially nuclear weapons. In addition, they may
develop disruptive technologies in an attempt to offset U.S. advantages. For
example, the development and proliferation of anti-access technology and
weaponry is worrisome as it can restrict our future freedom of action. These
challenges could come not only in the obvious forms we see today but also in less
traditional forms of influence such as manipulating global opinion using mass
communications venues and exploiting international commitments and legal
avenues. Meeting these challenges require better and more diverse capabilities in
both hard and soft power, and greater flexibility and skill in employing them.
These modes of warfare may appear individually or in combination, spanning the
spectrum of warfare and intertwining hard and soft power. In some instances, we
may not learn that a conflict is underway until it is well advanced and our options
limited. We must develop better intelligence capabilities to detect, recognize, and
analyze new forms of warfare as well as explore joint approaches and strategies to
Increasingly, the Department will have to plan for a future security environment
shaped by the interaction of powerful strategic trends. These trends suggest a
range of plausible futures, some presenting major challenges and security risks.
Over the next twenty years physical pressures â€“ population, resource, energy,
climatic and environmental â€“ could combine with rapid social, cultural,
technological and geopolitical change to create greater uncertainty. This
uncertainty is exacerbated by both the unprecedented speed and scale of change,
as well as by the unpredictable and complex interaction among the trends
themselves. Globalization and growing economic interdependence, while creating
new levels of wealth and opportunity, also create a web of interrelated
vulnerabilities and spread risks even further, increasing sensitivity to crises and
shocks around the globe and generating more uncertainty regarding their speed
Current defense policy must account for these areas of uncertainty. As we plan,
we must take account of the implications of demographic trends, particularly
population growth in much of the developing world and the population deficit in
much of the developed world. The interaction of these changes with existing and
future resource, environmental, and climate pressures may generate new security
challenges. Furthermore, as the relative balance of economic and military power
between states shifts, some propelled forward by economic development and
resource endowment, others held back by physical pressures or economic and
political stagnation, new fears and insecurities will arise, presenting new risks for
the international community.
These risks will require managing the divergent needs of massively increasing
energy demand to maintain economic development and the need to tackle climate
change. Collectively, these developments pose a new range of challenges for
states and societies. These trends will affect existing security concerns such as
international terrorism and weapons proliferation. At the same time, overlaying
these trends will be developments within science and technology, which, while
presenting some potential threats, suggest a range of positive developments that
may reduce many of the pressures and risks suggested by physical trends. How
these trends interact and the nature of the shocks they might generate is uncertain;
the fact that they will influence the future security environment is not.
Whenever possible, the Department will position itself both to respond to and
reduce uncertainty. This means we must continue to improve our understanding
of trends, their interaction, and the range of risks the Department may be called
upon to respond to or manage. We should act to reduce risks by shaping the
development of trends through the decisions we make regarding the equipment
and capabilities we develop and the security cooperation, reassurance, dissuasion,
deterrence, and operational activities we pursue. The Department should also
develop the military capability and capacity to hedge against uncertainty, and the
institutional agility and flexibility to plan early and respond effectively alongside
interdepartmental, non-governmental and international partners.
The Strategic Framework
Since World War II, the United States has acted as the primary force to maintain
international security and stability, leading first the West in the Cold War
confrontation with the Soviet Union and, more recently, international efforts to
confront violent extremism. This has been accomplished through military,
diplomatic, and economic means. Driving these efforts has been a set of enduring
national interests and a vision of opportunity and prosperity for the future. U.S.
interests include protecting the nation and our allies from attack or coercion,
promoting international security to reduce conflict and foster economic growth,
and securing the global commons and with them access to world markets and
resources. To pursue these interests, the U.S. has developed military capabilities
and alliances and coalitions, participated in and supported international security
and economic institutions, used diplomacy and soft power to shape the behavior of
individual states and the international system, and using force when necessary.
These tools help inform the strategic framework with which the United States
plans for the future, and help us achieve our ends.
The security of the United States is tightly bound up with the security of the
broader international system. As a result, our strategy seeks to build the capacity
of fragile or vulnerable partners to withstand internal threats and external
aggression while improving the capacity of the international system itself to
withstand the challenge posed by rogue states and would-be hegemons.
To support the NSS and provide enduring security for the American people, the
Department has five key objectives:
â€¢ Defend the Homeland
â€¢ Win the Long War
â€¢ Promote Security
â€¢ Deter Conflict
â€¢ Win our Nationâ€™s Wars
Defend the Homeland
The core responsibility of the Department of Defense is to defend the United
States from attack upon its territory at home and to secure its interests abroad. The
U.S. Armed Forces protect the physical integrity of the country through an active
layered defense. They also deter attacks upon it, directly and indirectly, through
deployments at sea, in the air, on land, and in space. However, as the spreading
web of globalization presents new opportunities and challenges, the importance of
planning to protect the homeland against previously unexpected threats increases.
Meeting these challenges also creates a tension between the need for security and
the requirements of openness in commerce and civil liberties. On the one hand, the
flow of goods, services, people, technology and information grows every year, and
with it the openness of American society. On the other hand, terrorists and others
wishing us harm seek to exploit that openness.
As noted in the 2006 QDR, state actors no longer have a monopoly over the
catastrophic use of violence. Small groups or individuals can harness chemical,
biological, or even crude radiological or nuclear devices to cause extensive
damage and harm. Similarly, they can attack vulnerable points in cyberspace and
disrupt commerce and daily life in the United States, causing economic damage,
compromising sensitive information and materials, and interrupting critical
services such as power and information networks. National security and domestic
resources may be at risk, and the Department must help respond to protect lives
and national assets. The Department will continue to be both bulwark and active
protector in these areas. Yet, in the long run the Department of Defense is neither
the best source of resources and capabilities nor the appropriate authority to
shoulder these tasks. The comparative advantage, and applicable authorities, for
action reside elsewhere in the U.S. Government, at other levels of government, in
the private sector, and with partner nations. DoD should expect and plan to play a
key supporting role in an interagency effort to combat these threats, and to help
develop new capacities and capabilities, while protecting its own vulnerabilities.
While defending the homeland in depth, the Department must also maintain the
capacity to support civil authorities in times of national emergency such as in the
wake of catastrophic natural and man-made disasters. The Department will
continue to maintain consequence management capabilities and plan for their use
to support government agencies. Effective execution of such assistance, especially
amid simultaneous, multi-jurisdictional disasters, requires ever-closer working
relationships with other departments and agencies, and at all levels of government.
To help develop and cultivate these working relationships, the Department will
continue to support the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is
responsible for coordinating the Federal response to disasters. DoD must also
reach out to non-governmental agencies and private sector entities that play a role
in disaster response and recovery.
Win the Long War
For the foreseeable future, winning the Long War against violent extremist
movements will be the central objective of the U.S. We must defeat violent
extremism as a threat to our way of life as a free and open society and foster an
environment inhospitable to violent extremists and all those who support them.
We face an extended series of campaigns to defeat violent extremist groups,
presently led by al-Qaeda and its associates. In concert with others, we seek to
reduce support for violent extremism and encourage moderate voices, offering a
positive alternative to the extremistsâ€™ vision for the future. Victory requires us to
apply all elements of national power in partnership with old allies and new
partners. Iraq and Afghanistan remain the central fronts in the struggle, but we
cannot lose sight of the implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front,
and multi-dimensional conflict more complex and diverse than the Cold War
confrontation with communism. Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to
winning this conflict, but it alone will not bring victory. We face a clash of arms, a
war of ideas, and an assistance effort that will require patience and innovation. In
concert with our partners, we must maintain a long-term commitment to
undermining and reducing the sources of support for extremist groups, and to
countering the ideological totalitarian messages they build upon.
We face a global struggle. Like communism and fascism before it, extremist
ideology has transnational pretensions, and like its secular antecedents, it draws
adherents from around the world. The vision it offers is in opposition to
globalization and the expansion of freedom it brings. Paradoxically, violent
extremist movements use the very instruments of globalization â€“ the unfettered
flow of information and ideas, goods and services, capital, people, and technology
â€“ that they claim to reject to further their goals. Although driven by this
transnational ideology, our adversaries themselves are, in fact, a collection of
regional and local extremist groups. Regional and local grievances help fuel the
conflict, and it thrives in ungoverned, under-governed, and mis-governed areas.
This conflict is a prolonged irregular campaign, a violent struggle for legitimacy
and influence over the population. The use of force plays a role, yet military
efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to
promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur
development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often
lie at the heart of insurgencies. For these reasons, arguably the most important
military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we
do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern
Working with and through local actors whenever possible to confront common
security challenges is the best and most sustainable approach to combat violent
extremism. Often our partners are better positioned to handle a given problem
because they understand the local geography, social structures, and culture better
than we do or ever could. In collaboration with interagency and international
partners we will assist vulnerable states and local populations as they seek to
ameliorate the conditions that foster extremism and dismantle the structures that
support and allow extremist groups to grow. We will adopt approaches tailored to
local conditions that will vary considerably across regions. We will help foster
security and aid local authorities in building effective systems of representational
government. By improving conditions, undermining the sources of support, and
assisting in addressing root causes of turmoil, we will help states stabilize
threatened areas. Countering the totalitarian ideological message of terrorist
groups to help further undermine their potency will also require sensitive,
sophisticated and integrated interagency and international efforts. The Department
will support and facilitate these efforts.
The struggle against violent extremists will not end with a single battle or
campaign. Rather, we will defeat them through the patient accumulation of quiet
successes and the orchestration of all elements of national and international power.
We will succeed by eliminating the ability of extremists to strike globally and
catastrophically while also building the capacity and resolve of local governments
to defeat them regionally. Victory will include discrediting extremist ideology,
creating fissures between and among extremist groups and reducing them to the
level of nuisance groups that can be tracked and handled by law enforcement
The best way to achieve security is to prevent war when possible and to encourage
peaceful change within the international system. Our strategy emphasizes
building the capacities of a broad spectrum of partners as the basis for long-term
security. We must also seek to strengthen the resiliency of the international system
to deal with conflict when it occurs. We must be prepared to deal with sudden
disruptions, to help prevent them from escalating or endangering international
security, and to find ways to bring them swiftly to a conclusion.
Local and regional conflicts in particular remain a serious and immediate problem.
They often spread and may exacerbate transnational problems such as trafficking
in persons, drug-running, terrorism, and the illicit arms trade. Rogue states and
extremist groups often seek to exploit the instability caused by regional conflict,
and state collapse or the emergence of ungoverned areas may create safe havens
for these groups. The prospect that instability and collapse in a strategic state
could provide extremists access to weapons of mass destruction or result in control
of strategic resources is a particular concern.
To preclude such calamities, we will help build the internal capacities of countries
at risk. We will work with and through like-minded states to help shrink the
ungoverned areas of the world and thereby deny extremists and other hostile
parties sanctuary. By helping others to police themselves and their regions, we will
collectively address threats to the broader international system.
We must also address the continuing need to build and support long-term
international security. As the 2006 NSS underscores, relations with the most
powerful countries of the world are central to our strategy. We seek to pursue U.S.
interests within cooperative relationships, not adversarial ones, and have made
great progress. For example, our relationship with India has evolved from an
uneasy co-existence during the Cold War to a growing partnership today. We wish
to use the opportunity of an absence of fundamental conflict between great powers
to shape the future, and to prevent the re-emergence of great power rivalry.
The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, and it
encourages China to participate as a responsible stakeholder by taking on a greater
share of burden for the stability, resilience, and growth of the international system.
However, much uncertainty surrounds the future course Chinaâ€™s leaders will set
for their country. Accordingly, the NSS states that â€œour strategy seeks to
encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge
against other possibilities.â€ A critical component of this strategy is the
establishment and pursuit of continuous strategic dialogue with China to build
understanding, improve communication, and to reduce the risk of miscalculation.
China continues to modernize and develop military capabilities primarily focused
on a Taiwan Strait conflict, but which could have application in other
contingencies. The Department will respond to Chinaâ€™s expanding military power,
and to the uncertainties over how it might be used, through shaping and hedging.
This approach tailors investment of substantial, but not infinite, resources in ways
that favor key enduring U.S. strategic advantages. At the same time, we will
continue to improve and refine our capabilities to respond to China if necessary.
We will continue to press China to increase transparency in its defense budget
expenditures, strategies, plans and intentions. We will work with other elements of
the U.S. Government to develop a comprehensive strategy to shape Chinaâ€™s
In addition, Russiaâ€™s retreat from democracy and its increasing economic and
political intimidation of its neighbors give cause for concern. We do not expect
Russia to revert to outright global military confrontation, but the risk of
miscalculation or conflict arising out of economic coercion has increased.
We also share interests with Russia, and can collaborate with it in a variety of
ways. We have multiple opportunities and venues to mold our security relationship
and to cooperate â€“ such as in countering WMD proliferation and extremist groups.
At the same time, we will seek other ways to encourage Russia to act as a
constructive partner, while expressing our concerns over policies and aspects of its
international behavior such as the sale of disruptive weapons technologies and
interference in and coercion of its neighbors.
Both China and Russia are important partners for the future and we seek to build
collaborative and cooperative relationships with them. We will develop strategies
across agencies, and internationally, to provide incentives for constructive
behavior while also dissuading them from destabilizing actions.
Deterrence is key to preventing conflict and enhancing security. It requires
influencing the political and military choices of an adversary, dissuading it from
taking an action by making its leaders understand that either the cost of the action
is too great, is of no use, or unnecessary. Deterrence also is based upon credibility:
the ability to prevent attack, respond decisively to any attack so as to discourage
even contemplating an attack upon us, and strike accurately when necessary.
For nearly half a century, the United States approached its security focused on a
single end: deterring the Soviet Union from attacking the United States and our
allies in what could have escalated into a global thermonuclear catastrophe. To
that purpose we built our deterrent upon a diverse and survivable nuclear force,
coupled with a potent conventional capability, designed to counter the military
power of one adversary. Likewise, our assumptions and calculations for shaping
deterrence were based largely upon our understanding of the dynamics and culture
of the Soviet Union alone. All potential conflict was subsumed and influenced by
that confrontation and the fear of escalation within it. Even so, there were limits.
Military capabilities alone were, and are, no panacea to deter all conflict: despite
the enormous strength of both the United States and the Soviet Union, conflicts
arose; some were defused, while others spilled over into local wars.
In the contemporary strategic environment, the challenge is one of deterring or
dissuading a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions against
the U.S. and our allies and interests. These adversaries could be states or non-state
actors; they could use nuclear, conventional, or unconventional weapons; and they
could exploit terrorism, electronic, cyber and other forms of warfare. Economic
interdependence and the growth of global communications further complicate the
situation. Not only do they blur the types of threats, they also exacerbate
sensitivity to the effects of attacks and in some cases make it more difficult to
attribute or trace them. Finally, the number of potential adversaries, the breadth of
their capabilities, and the need to design approaches to deterrence for each, create
We must tailor deterrence to fit particular actors, situations, and forms of warfare.
The same developments that add to the complexity of the challenge also offer us a
greater variety of capabilities and methods to deter or dissuade adversaries. This
diversity of tools, military and non-military, allows us to create more plausible
reactions to attacks in the eyes of opponents and a more credible deterrence to
them. In addition, changes in capabilities, especially new technologies, permit us
to create increasingly credible defenses to convince would-be attackers that their
efforts are ultimately futile.
Our ability to deter attack credibly also reassures the American people and our
allies of our commitment to defend them. For this reason, deterrence must remain
grounded in demonstrated military capabilities that can respond to a broad array of
challenges to international security. For example, the United States will maintain
its nuclear arsenal as a primary deterrent to nuclear attack, and the New Triad
remains a cornerstone of strategic deterrence. We must also continue to field
conventional capabilities to augment or even replace nuclear weapons in order to
provide our leaders a greater range of credible responses. Missile defenses not
only deter an attack, but can defend against such an attack should deterrence fail.
Precision-guided munitions allow us great flexibility not only to react to attacks,
but also to strike preemptively when necessary to defend ourselves and our allies.
Yet we must also recognize that deterrence has its limits, especially where our
interests are ill-defined or the targets of our deterrence are difficult to influence.
Deterrence may be impossible in cases where the value is not in the destruction of
a target, but the attack and the very means of attack, as in terrorism.
We must build both our ability to withstand attack â€“ a fundamental and defensive
aspect of deterrence â€“ and improve our resiliency beyond an attack. An important
change in planning for the myriad of future potential threats must be post-attack
recovery and operational capacity. This, too, helps demonstrate that such attacks
are futile, as does our ability to respond with strength and effectiveness to attack.
For the future, the global scope of problems, and the growing complexity of
deterrence in new domains of conflict, will require an integrated interagency and
international approach if we are to make use of all the tools available to us. We
must consider which non-lethal actions constitute an attack on our sovereignty,
and which may require the use of force in response. We must understand the
potential for escalation from non-lethal to lethal confrontation, and learn to
calculate and manage the associated risks.
Win our Nationâ€™s Wars
Despite our best efforts at prevention and deterrence, we must be prepared to act
together with like minded states against states when they threaten their neighbors,
provide safe haven to terrorists, or pursue destabilizing weapons. Although
improving the U.S. Armed Forcesâ€™ proficiency in irregular warfare is the Defense
Departmentâ€™s top priority, the United States does not have the luxury of preparing
exclusively for such challenges. Even though the likelihood of interstate conflict
has declined in recent years, we ignore it at our peril. Current circumstances in
Southwest Asia and on the Korean Peninsula, for example, demonstrate the
continuing possibility of conflict. When called upon, the Department must be
positioned to defeat enemies employing a combination of capabilities,
conventional and irregular, kinetic and non-kinetic, across the spectrum of
conflict. We must maintain the edge in our conventional forces.
Rogue states will remain a threat to U.S. regional interests. Iran and North Korea
continue to exert coercive pressure in their respective regions, where each seek to
challenge or reduce U.S. influence. Responding to and, as necessary, defeating
these, and potentially other, rogue states will remain a major challenge. We must
maintain the capabilities required to defeat state adversaries, including those
armed with nuclear weapons.
Achieving Our Objectives
We will achieve our objectives by shaping the choices of key states, preventing
adversaries from acquiring or using WMD, strengthening and expanding alliances
and partnerships, securing U.S. strategic access and retaining freedom of action,
and integrating and unifying our efforts.
Shape the Choices of Key States
Although the role of non-state actors in world affairs has increased, states will
continue to be the basis of the international order. In cooperation with our allies
and friends, the United States can help shape the international environment, the
behavior of actors, and the choices that strategic states face in ways that foster
accountability, cooperation, and mutual trust.
Shaping choices contributes to achieving many of our objectives. It is critical to
defending the homeland by convincing key states that attacking the United States
would be futile and ultimately self-defeating. Our deterrence posture is designed
to persuade potential aggressors that they cannot meet their objectives through an
attack on the United States and that such actions would result in an overwhelming
response. Our posture and capabilities also contribute to deterring conflict of other
types, particularly with potential adversary states. We can also promote security
by helping shape the choices that strategic states make, encouraging them to avoid
destabilizing paths and adhering to international norms on the use of force, the
promotion of peace and amity, and acting as good stewards of the public good
within their own borders.
We shall seek to anchor China and Russia as stakeholders in the system. Similarly,
we look to India to assume greater responsibility as a stakeholder in the
international system, commensurate with its growing economic, military, and soft
Prevent Adversaries from Acquiring or Using Weapons of Mass
There are few greater challenges than those posed by chemical, biological, and
particularly nuclear weapons. Preventing the spread of these weapons, and their
use, requires vigilance and obligates us to anticipate and counter threats.
Whenever possible, we prefer non-military options to achieve this purpose. We
combine non-proliferation efforts to deny these weapons and their components to
our adversaries, active efforts to defend against and defeat WMD and missile
threats before they are unleashed, and improved protection to mitigate the
consequences of WMD use. We also seek to convince our adversaries that they
cannot attain their goals with WMD, and thus should not acquire such weapons in
the first place. However, as the NSS states, the United States will, if necessary,
act preemptively in exercising its right of self-defense to forestall or prevent
hostile acts by our adversaries.
Reducing the proliferation of WMD and bolstering norms against their use
contribute to defending the homeland by limiting the number of states that can
directly threaten us and dissuading the potential transfer of these weapons to nonstate
actors. As we and our partners limit WMD proliferation, we will deny
terrorists a potent weapon and contribute to bringing the fight against violent
extremists to a successful conclusion on U.S. terms.
A number of hostile or potentially hostile states are actively seeking or have
acquired WMD. Some may seek them for prestige or deterrence; others may plan
to use them. Preventing such regimes from acquiring or proliferating WMD, and
the means to deliver them, contributes to promoting security.
Fortunately, the ranks of the nuclear powers are still small, but they could grow in
the next decade in the absence of concerted action. Many more countries possess
chemical and biological weapons programs â€“ programs that are more difficult to
detect, impede, or eliminate. These countries will continue to pursue WMD
programs as a means to deter, coerce, and potentially use against adversaries.
Shaping the behavior of additional states seeking or acquiring weapons of mass
destruction will require an integrated, international effort.
Technological and information advances of the last fifty years have led to the wide
dissemination of WMD knowledge and lowered barriers to entry. Relatively
sophisticated chemical agents, and even crude biological agents, are within the
reach of many non-state actors with a modicum of scientific knowledge.
Non-state actors may acquire WMD, either through clandestine production, statesponsorship, or theft. Also of concern is the potential for severe instability in
WMD states and resulting loss of control of these weapons. In these cases, the
United States, through a concerted interagency and partner nation effort, must be
prepared to detect, tag and track, intercept, and destroy WMD and related
materials. We must also be prepared to act quickly to secure those weapons and
materials in cases where a state loses control of its weapons, especially nuclear
devices. Should the worst happen, and we are attacked, we must be able to sustain
operations during that attack and help mitigate the consequences of WMD attacks
at home or overseas.
Strengthen and Expand Alliances and Partnerships
The United States also must strengthen and expand alliances and partnerships. The
U.S. alliance system has been a cornerstone of peace and security for more than a
generation and remains the key to our success, contributing significantly to
achieving all U.S. objectives. Allies often possess capabilities, skills, and
knowledge we cannot duplicate. We should not limit ourselves to the
relationships of the past. We must broaden our ideas to include partnerships for
new situations or circumstances, calling on moderate voices in troubled regions
and unexpected partners. In some cases, we may develop arrangements limited to
specific objectives or goals, or even of limited duration. Although these
arrangements will vary according to mutual interests, they should be built on
respect, reciprocity, and transparency.
The capacities of our partners vary across mission areas. We will be able to rely on
many partners for certain low-risk missions such as peacekeeping and
humanitarian assistance, whereas complex counterinsurgency and high-end
conventional operations are likely to draw on fewer partners with the capacity,
will, and capability to act in support of mutual goals. We will support, train, advise
and equip partner security forces to counter insurgencies, terrorism, proliferation,
and other threats. We will assist other countries in improving their capabilities
through security cooperation, just as we will learn valuable skills and information
from others better situated to understand some of the complex challenges we face
We must also work with longstanding friends and allies to transform their
capabilities. Key to transformation is training, education and, where appropriate,
the transfer of defense articles to build partner capacity. We must work to develop
new ways of operating across the full spectrum of warfare. Our partnerships must
be capable of applying military and non-military power when and where needed â€“
a prerequisite against an adaptable transnational enemy.
Secure U.S. strategic access and retain freedom of action
For more than sixty years, the United States has secured the global commons for
the benefit of all. Global prosperity is contingent on the free flow of ideas, goods,
and services. The enormous growth in trade has lifted millions of people out of
poverty by making locally produced goods available on the global market. Low
barriers to trade also benefit consumers by reducing the cost of goods and
allowing countries to specialize. None of this is possible without a basic belief
that goods shipped through air or by sea, or information transmitted under the
ocean or through space, will arrive at their destination safely. The development
and proliferation of anti-access technologies and tactics threatens to undermine
The United States requires freedom of action in the global commons and strategic
access to important regions of the world to meet our national security needs. The
well-being of the global economy is contingent on ready access to energy
resources. Notwithstanding national efforts to reduce dependence on oil, current
trends indicate an increasing reliance on petroleum products from areas of
instability in the coming years, not reduced reliance. The United States will
continue to foster access to and flow of energy resources vital to the world
economy. Further, the Department is examining its own energy demands and is
taking action to reduce fuel demand where it will not negatively affect operational
capability. Such efforts will reduce DoD fuel costs and assist wider U.S.
Government energy security and environmental objectives.
We will continue to transform overseas U.S. military presence through global
defense posture realignment, leveraging a more agile continental U.S. (CONUS)-
based expeditionary total force and further developing a more relevant and flexible
forward network of capabilities and arrangements with allies and partners to
ensure strategic access.
Integrate and unify our efforts: A new â€œJointnessâ€
Our efforts require a unified approach to both planning and implementing policy.
Iraq and Afghanistan remind us that military success alone is insufficient to
achieve victory. We must not forget our hard-learned lessons or allow the
important soft power capabilities developed because of them to atrophy or even
disappear. Beyond security, essential ingredients of long-term success include
economic development, institution building, and the rule of law, as well as
promoting internal reconciliation, good governance, providing basic services to
the people, training and equipping indigenous military and police forces, strategic
communications. We as a nation must strengthen not only our military
capabilities, but also reinvigorate other important elements of national power and
develop the capability to integrate, tailor, and apply these tools as needed. We
must tap the full strength of America and its people.
The Department of Defense has taken on many of these burdens. Our forces have
stepped up to the task of long-term reconstruction, development and governance.
The U.S. Armed Forces will need to institutionalize and retain these capabilities,
but this is no replacement for civilian involvement and expertise. The United
States must improve its ability to deploy civilian expertise rapidly, and continue to
increase effectiveness by joining with organizations and people outside of
government â€“ untapped resources with enormous potential. We can make better
use of the expertise of our universities and of industry to assist in reconstruction
and long-term improvements to economic vitality and good governance. Greater
civilian participation is necessary both to make military operations successful and
to relieve stress on the men and women of the armed forces. Having permanent
civilian capabilities available and using them early could also make it less likely
that military forces will need to be deployed in the first place.
We also need capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Strategic
communications within the Department and across government is a good example.
Although the United States invented modern public relations, we are unable to
communicate to the world effectively who we are and what we stand for as a
society and culture, about freedom and democracy, and about our goals and
aspirations. This capability is and will be crucial not only for the Long War, but
also for the consistency of our message on crucial security issues to our allies,
adversaries, and the world.
We will continue to work with other U.S. Departments and Agencies, state and
local governments, partners and allies, and international and multilateral
organizations to achieve our objectives. A whole-of-government approach is only
possible when every government department and agency understands the core
competencies, roles, missions, and capabilities of its partners and works together
to achieve common goals. Examples such as expanding U.S. Southern
Commandâ€™s interagency composition and the establishment of U.S. Africa
Command will point the way. In addition, we will support efforts to coordinate
national security planning more effectively, both within DoD and across other
U.S. Departments and Agencies.
We will continue to work to improve understanding and harmonize best practices
amongst interagency partners. This must happen at every level from Washington,
DC-based headquarters to the field. DoD, in partnership with DHS, also will
continue to develop habitual relationships with state and local authorities to ensure
we are positioned to respond when necessary and support civil authorities in times
of emergency, where allowable by law. Through these efforts we will
significantly increase our collective abilities to defend the homeland.
We will further develop and refine our own capabilities. We should continue to
develop innovative capabilities, concept, and organizations. We will continue to
rely on adaptive planning, on integration and use of all government assets, and on
flexibility and speed. Yet we must not only have a full spectrum of capabilities at
our disposal, but also employ and tailor any or all of them to a complex
environment. These developments will require an expanded understanding of
â€œjointness,â€ one that seamlessly combines civil and military capabilities and
Finally, we must consider further realigning Department structures, and
interagency planning and response efforts, to better address these risks and to meet
new needs. We will examine how integrated planning is conducted within the
Department, and how to make better use of our own existing capacities.
DoD Capabilities and Means
Implementation of any strategy is predicated on developing, maintaining and,
where possible, expanding the means required to execute its objectives within
budget constraints. Without the tools, we cannot do the job. The Department is
well equipped for its primary missions, but it always seeks to improve and refine
capabilities and effectiveness. The challenges before us will require
resourcefulness and an integrated approach that wisely balances risks and assets,
and that recognizes where we must improve, and where others are better suited to
help implement aspects of the strategy.
The Department will continue to emphasize the areas identified in the 2006 QDR,
specifically improvements in capabilities for defeating terrorist networks,
defending the homeland in depth, shaping the choices of countries at strategic
crossroads, and preventing adversariesâ€™ acquisition and use of weapons of mass
destruction. Although these capabilities are not sufficient to address all the
missions of the Department, they require particular attention.
The Departmentâ€™s greatest asset is the people who dedicate themselves to the
mission. The Total Force distributes and balances skills across each of its
constituent elements: the Active Component, the Reserve Component, the civilian
workforce, and the private sector and contractor base. Each element relies on the
other to accomplish the mission; none can act independently of the other to
accomplish the mission. The force has been severely tasked between operations in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and fulfilling other missions and assignments. Although
we are already committed to strengthening our forces, we also should seek to find
more ways to retain and tap into the unique skills and experience of the thousands
of veterans and others who have served and who can provide valuable
contributions to national security. We will continue to pursue the improvements
in the total force identified in the 2006 QDR and elsewhere, including the
expansion of special operations forces and ground forces and developing modular,
adaptable joint forces.
Strategic communications will play an increasingly important role in a unified
approach to national security. DoD, in partnership with the Department of State,
has begun to make strides in this area, and will continue to do so. However, we
should recognize that this is a weakness across the U.S. Government, and that a
coordinated effort must be made to improve the joint planning and implementation
of strategic communications.
Intelligence and information sharing have always been a vital component of
national security. Reliable information and analysis, quickly available, is an
enduring challenge. As noted in the 2006 QDR, DoD is pursuing improved
intelligence capabilities across the spectrum, such as defense human intelligence
focused on identifying and penetrating terrorist networks and measurement and
signature intelligence to identify WMD and delivery systems.
Technology and equipment are the tools of the Total Force, and we must give our
people what they need, and the best resources, to get the job done. First-class
technology means investing in the right kinds of technology at the right time. Just
as our adversaries adapt and develop new tactics, techniques, and procedures, we
too must be nimble and creative. One area of particular focus is developing the
means to locate, tag and track WMD components. We also must continue to
improve our acquisition and contracting regulations, procedures, and oversight to
ensure agile and timely procurement of critical equipment and materials for our
Organization also is a key to the DoDâ€™s success, especially as it brings together
disparate capabilities and skills to wield as a unified and overpowering force.
Concepts such as â€œnet-centricityâ€ can help guide DoD, linking components of the
Department together and connecting organizations with complementary core
competencies, forging the Total Force into more than the sum of its parts. The goal
is to break down barriers and transform industrial-era organizational structures
into an information and knowledge-based enterprise. These concepts are not a
panacea, and will require investments in people as much as in technology to
realize the full potential of these initiatives.
Strengthening our burgeoning system of alliances and partnerships is essential to
implementing our strategy. We have become more integrated with our allies and
partners on the battlefield and elsewhere. Whether formal alliances such as NATO
or newer partnerships such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, they have
proved their resiliency and adaptability. These relationships continue to evolve,
ensuring their relevance as new challenges emerge. Our partners provide
resources, knowledge, skills, and capabilities we cannot duplicate.
Building these partnerships takes resources. DoD has worked with its interagency
partners and Congress to expand the portfolio of security cooperation and
partnership capacity building tools over the last seven years and will continue to
do so. These tools are essential to successful implementation of the strategy. We
will also work with Congress and other stakeholders to address our significant
concern with growing legal and regulatory restrictions that impede, and threaten to
undermine, our military readiness.
DoD will continue to implement global defense posture realignment, transforming
from legacy base structures and forward-garrisoned forces to an expeditionary
force, providing greater flexibility to contend with uncertainty in a changing
Implementing the National Defense Strategy and its objectives requires balancing
risks, and understanding the choices those risks imply. We cannot do everything,
or function equally well across the spectrum of conflict. Ultimately we must make
With limited resources, our strategy must address how we assess, mitigate, and
respond to risk. Here we define risk in terms of the potential for damage to
national security combined with the probability of occurrence and a measurement
of the consequences should the underlying risk remain unaddressed. We must
hedge against changes in the strategic environment that might invalidate the
assumptions underpinning the strategy as well as address risks to the strategy.
First, there are risks associated with the indirect approach that is fundamental to
the Long War. We must recognize that partner contributions to future coalition
operations will vary in size, composition, competence, and capability. Some
partners will have the political will and the capacity and capability to make
significant contributions across the spectrum of conflict. Other partners will
demonstrate more restraint in the type of operation (e.g., counter-terrorism,
stabilization, traditional combat operations) in which they will participate. We
must balance the clear need for partners â€“ the Long War is ultimately not winnable
without them â€“ with mission requirements for effectiveness and efficiency.
Additionally, the strategic shocks identified above could potentially change the
rules of the game and require a fundamental re-appraisal of the strategy.
Second, the strategy must account for four dimensions of risk:
â€¢ Operational risks are those associated with the current force executing the
strategy successfully within acceptable human, material, financial, and
â€¢ Future challenges risks are those associated with the Departmentâ€™s capacity to
execute future missions successfully against an array of prospective future
â€¢ Force management risks are those associated with managing military forces
fulfilling the objectives described in this National Defense Strategy. The
primary concern here is recruiting, retaining, training, and equipping a force
and sustaining its readiness.
â€¢ Institutional risks are those associated with the capacity of new command,
management, and business practices.
To address the potential for multiple contingencies, the Department will develop a
range of military options for the President, including means to de-escalate crises
and reduce demand on forces where possible. Addressing operational risk requires
clearly articulating the risks inherent in and the consequences of choosing among
the options and proposing mitigation strategies.
U.S. predominance in traditional warfare is not unchallenged, but is sustainable for
the medium term given current trends. The 2006 QDR focused on non-traditional
or irregular challenges. We will continue to focus our investments on building
capabilities to address these other challenges, while examining areas where we can
assume greater risk.
Future Challenges Risk
An underlying assumption in our understanding of the strategic environment is
that the predominant near-term challenges to the United States will come from
state and non-state actors using irregular and catastrophic capabilities. Although
our advanced space and cyber-space assets give us unparalleled advantages on the
traditional battlefield, they also entail vulnerabilities.
China is developing technologies to disrupt our traditional advantages. Examples
include development of anti-satellite capabilities and cyber warfare. Other actors,
particularly non-state actors, are developing asymmetric tactics, techniques, and
procedures that seek to avoid situations where our advantages come into play.
The Department will invest in hedging against the loss or disruption of our
traditional advantages, not only through developing mitigation strategies, but also
by developing alternative or parallel means to the same end. This diversification
parallelism is distinct from acquiring overmatch capabilities (whereby we have
much more than an adversary of a similar capability). It will involve pursuing
multiple routes to similar effects while ensuring that such capabilities are
applicable across multiple mission areas.
Force Management Risk
The people of our Total Force are the greatest asset of the Department. Ensuring
that each person has the opportunity to contribute to the maximum of their
potential is critical to achieving DoDâ€™s objectives and supporting U.S. national
security. An all-volunteer force is the foundation of the most professional and
proficient fighting force in the world. It also underlines the necessity to innovate
in providing opportunities for advancement and growth. Our civilian and military
workforce similarly possesses skills that are highly prized in the private sector,
thus requiring a concerted strategy to retain these professionals.
Retaining well-trained, motivated military and civilian personnel is key. Financial
incentives only go so far. Our military and civilian personnel elect to serve their
country unselfishly. It is the responsibility of our senior leaders to recognize that
fact and provide the means for personnel to grow, develop new knowledge, and
develop new skills.
Since 2001, the Department has created new commands (integrating Space and
Strategic Commands, establishing Northern and Africa Commands) and new
governance structures. DoD is already a complex organization. We must guard
against increasing organizational complexity leading to redundancy, gaps, or
overly bureaucratic decision-making processes.
The strategy contained in this document is the result of an assessment of the
current and future strategic environment. The United States, and particularly the
Department of Defense, will not win the Long War or successfully address other
security challenges alone. Forging a new consensus for a livable world requires
constant effort and unity of purpose with our Allies and partners. The Department
stands ready to fulfill its mission.