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What Is the National Defense Strategy?

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The National Defense Strategy — the first new strategy in a decade — was released in 2018. It has two main goals:

To restore America’s competitive edge by blocking global rivals Russia and China from challenging the U.S. and our allies.
To keep those rivals from throwing the current international order out of balance.

A graphic showing the National Defense Strategy's lines of effort.
National Defense Strategy
The National Defense Strategy's Lines of Effort - Lethality, Partnerships, Reform.
Photo By: DOD Graphic
VIRIN: 200709-D-ZZ999-001

Basically, it recognizes our reality: that we have competition. To deal with this, we need to keep the peace through strength by building on our military advantage and maintaining important regional balances of power.

The Defense Department has been hard at work to put the strategy into action. It now has its largest annual budget, which includes the biggest troop pay increase in nine years. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has traveled to 58 countries to solidify existing partnerships and form new ones. DOD is conducting the largest consolidated audit in its history. Streamlined contracting and purchasing processes and other reform initiatives are making sure every tax dollar is spent wisely and in keeping with the National Defense Strategy’s three priorities:

Build a more lethal force
A missile launches from a ship at night.
Porter Ops
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. The ship conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Photo By: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams
VIRIN: 170407-N-JI086-301Y
Strengthen alliances and find new partners
Three service members work on equipment.
Djibouti Partners
Army Spc. William Reed, a multisystem transmission operator and maintainer assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, watches as a member of the Djibouti Armed Forces sets up an antenna during a military-to-military exchange course at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Jan. 8, 2018.
Photo By: Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore
VIRIN: 180108-F-EN010-2044Y
Reform business practices
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper stands with service members in a large building.
Pensacola Visit
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper visits the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Fla., Jan. 22, 2020.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Brandy Nicole Mejia
VIRIN: 200122-D-AP390-6072

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