America’s Strategic Defense Priorities

On October 21, the Atlantic Council hosted United States Representatives Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, for an event entitled, “America’s Strategic Defense Priorities.” In his public comments and subsequent discussion with Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security Deputy Director Daniel Y. Chiu, Representative Smith spoke about America’s defense priorities for the coming year, current foreign security challenges, and how Congress’s dysfunctional internal dynamics are damaging the nation’s ability to defend itself.

Turning to foreign policy, Representative Smith cautioned that although the armed forces play a leading role in safeguarding national security, there are limits to what military force alone can achieve. Complex problems such as the Islamic State and the challenges posed by a rising China require diplomatic engagement and partnership building across a wide array of stakeholders. Representative Smith also warned that one of the most significant threats to US national security is Congress’s chronic inability to pass a budget. He noted that until politicians and the public become realistic about their conflicting expectations for public policy – for instance, a concurrent desire to cut taxes and increase spending on favored public programs – there will be no resolution to the ongoing cycle of fiscal and budgetary crises.