The 5 Biggest Threats Facing The US Military, A Year Into Trump’s Presidency

Analysis

Welcome to THREAT WEEK, a series exploring the most complex challenges facing the U.S. military at home and abroad — and at least one wrinkle you probably haven’t considered — through the eyes of experts we trust to distinguish signal from noise. We'll be running a new assessment every day leading up to President Trump's first State of the Union on Jan. 30.


President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy document, released by the administration in the closing weeks of 2017, is a straightforward approach to national defense. The document boils down to four basic pillars: “protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world.” It’s those pillars that the president will likely embrace once again during his first State of the Union address to both houses of Congress on Jan. 30.

While these may be relatively simple goals, the threats they’re meant to mitigate are anything but. On top of regular threats from terrorists and rogue states, the United States is contending with “great power competition” from the likes of Russia and China. And the immediate strategic objectives — annihilating the threat of Islamic extremism, protecting against weapons of mass destruction, “keeping America safe in the cyber era,” strengthening the border, and taking down transnational criminal organizations — will require the U.S. military to retain “the combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success and to ensure that America’s sons and daughters will never be in a fair fight.”

These obstacles aren’t just foes that can be wiped off the map, but broad, structural challenges that bear down from all sides. Rapid technological advancements by foreign adversaries, the changing nature of modern warfare, and the rising threat of non-state actors have created a security situation where “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” as the National Defense Strategy puts it — all while the DoD’s ability to keep American citizens safe faces domestic challenges, from eroding readiness to Congress’s perpetual budget drama.

Making America Great Again, at home and abroad, is going to be one hell of a fight — and after a turbulent 2017, there are some seriously complicated challenges ahead for the Pentagon to consider as it barrels into another year of ongoing war. And while everyone with cable news and an internet connection can pretend to be a would-be natsec pro, most of the solutions for America’s biggest problems are percolating in the brainpans in a handful of subject matter experts.

To that end, Task & Purpose reached out to consult some of the smartest thinkers on national security we know (and trust) on some of the biggest issues facing the United States in 2018, and we’re publishing their analysis (with a hint of our own) everyday this week in the run-up to President Trump’s first State of the Union address on Jan. 30.

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U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Erin Piazza
(U.S. Army/Pfc. Hubert D. Delany III)

More than 7,500 boots on display at Fort Bragg this month served as a temporary memorial to service members from all branches who have died since 9/11.

The boots — which had the service members' photos and dates of death — were on display for Fort Bragg's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's annual Run, Honor and Remember 5k on May 18 and for the 82nd Airborne Division's run that kicked off All American Week.

"It shows the families the service members are still remembered, honored and not forgotten," said Charlotte Watson, program manager of Fort Bragg's Survivor Outreach Services.

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After more than a decade of research and development and upwards of $500 million in funding, the Navy finally plans on testing its much-hyped electromagnetic railgun on a surface warship in a major milestone for the beleaguered weapons system, Navy documents reveal.

The Navy's latest Northwest Training and Testing draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment (NWTT EIS/OEIS), first detailed by the Seattle Times on Friday, reveals that " the kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets."

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Amber Smith)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.

Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.

When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.

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In less than three years after the National Security Agency found itself subject to an unprecedentedly catastrophic hacking episode, one of the agency's most powerful cyber weapons is reportedly being turned against American cities with alarming frequency by the very foreign hackers it was once intended to counter.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Scott Schmidt)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles roaring their way through the streets of Washington, D.C., to Memorial Day events as part of the annual Rolling Thunder veterans tribute will be a thing of the past after this coming weekend.

Former Army Sgt. Artie Muller, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Rolling Thunder, said the logistics and costs of staging the event for Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, were getting too out of hand to continue. The ride had become a tradition in D.C. since the first in 1988.

"It's just a lot of money," said the plainspoken Muller, who laced an interview with a few epithets of regret over having to shut down Rolling Thunder.

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