With the coronavirus on a rampage around the world, how could this impact our national security in the future? What is the real cost of COVID-19, and how can we afford next year’s budget?

The president has proposed a $45.8 billion government-wide funding package that will provide DoD with $8.3 billion to assist in dealing with the disruptions of sickness and quarantine from the coronavirus. So what does this mean?

Simply because we’ve got a pandemic on our hands doesn’t mean that war pauses. I mean, even Iran just let loose 100,000 prisoners due to COVID-19. Don’t worry folks, they will turn themselves back in after all this is over. (Iran has reported more than 38,000 infections and 2,640 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.)

The $8.3 billion from the funding package is supposed to cover a variety of purposes: “Mitigate the danger of COVID–19 on us service members, their dependents, and DOD civilians, minimize the impacts of the virus on strategic mission readiness; and support national response efforts.”

It will include resources for the following:

  • Facilitating changes in personnel policy.
  • Expediting access to rapid COVID-19 diagnostics.
  • Ensuring access to medical aid, including additional medical countermeasures.
  • Addressing the impacts of the pandemic on logistics and provide chains, including pharmaceuticals and private protective equipment.
  • And bolstering the general national response.

This is a wartime budget strategy. Throwing money at problems is usually not a good strategy because institutions will allocate the funds the way they desire. This frequently produces overlap, inefficiency, and duplication. But by pursuing multiple channels of action, such an approach can get results quickly. The U.S. fought WWII in this manner, and it’ll fight COVID-19 in the same manner. Let’s hope we beat the virus as soundly as we beat the Germans and Japanese.

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On February 10, 2020, President Trump sent Congress a proposed financial year (F.Y.) 2021 budget request of $740.5 billion for national security, $705.4 billion would be allocated for the Department of Defense (DoD). The F.Y. 2021 budget supports the irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy (NDS). It drives the Department’s decision-making in reprioritizing resources and shifting investments towards organizing for a possible future, high-end fight.

These budget resources will focus on four areas in order to create a more effective, agile, and innovative joint force:

  • Continuing to enhance military readiness and investing in the modernization towards a more lethal force.
  • Strengthening alliances, deepening interoperability, and attracting new partners.
  • Reforming the Department for higher performance and accountability.
  • Supporting service members and their families and recognizing that our people are our most precious resource. Let me guess, humans are more important than hardware, right?

Blah Blah Blah… so what does all this mean for Special Operations? Here are the numbers you all want:

  • Army readiness – $30.9 billion
  • Navy and United States Marine Corps readiness – $47.5 billion
  • Air Force readiness – $37.1 billion
  • SOCOM readiness – $9.5 billion

“USSOCOM is focused on addressing the defense and security threats and challenges from emerging great power competitors, as well as terrorists and violent extremist organizations (VEOs), identified in the National Defense Strategy (NDS) along the directed lines of effort: building a more lethal force, strengthening alliances and attracting new partners, and reforming our institution for greater performance and affordability.”

– General Clarke, USSOCOM Commander

The President and Congress have emphasized funding the military. Our budget over the past three years has allowed us to reverse the decline in readiness while starting to modernize our air, land, sea, space, and cyber capabilities. However, there’s no guarantee that this level of funding will continue. To satisfy the objectives outlined within the NDS, we must still make the most of each resource.

A significant concern for the DoD is drones. The urgency to protect troops, bases, and installations from drone attacks changed forever last year when a swarm of small, low-flying drones unleashed by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels targeted Saudi oil processing facilities. Drones are an easily accessible and cheap technology that could produce a high reward for the enemy. The attack on Saudi oil facilities was nothing but a Pearl Harbor-type warning call for the necessity of countering unmanned aerial systems with defense technology, commonly known as C-UAS. The DoD wants to remain ahead of such threats. It is examining sensor development to detect UAS, the utilization of A.I. to spot targets, and defeat mechanisms from jamming to lasers to knock them down.

So 2021 Budget, huh. Yes, if you are a G.S., you’ll probably get furloughed, big surprise. But be assured that our troops will still get the funding they need to remain ahead of their adversaries.