A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense--Issues for Congress Page: 2 of 29
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A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense
World events have led some observers, starting in late 2013, to conclude that the international
security environment has undergone a shift from the familiar post-Cold War era of the past 20 to
25 years, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar
power), to a new and different situation that features, among other things, renewed great power
competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements
of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.
A previous change in the international security environment-the shift in the late 1980s and early
1990s from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era-prompted a broad reassessment by the
Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress of defense funding levels, strategy, and missions
that led to numerous changes in DOD plans and programs. Many of these changes were
articulated in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR), a reassessment of U.S. defense plans and
programs whose very name conveyed the fundamental nature of the reexamination that had
The recent shift in the international security environment that some observers have identified
from the post-Cold War era to a new situation-has become a factor in the debate over the size of
the U.S. defense budget in coming years, and over whether the Budget Control Act (BCA) of
2011 (S. 365/P.L. 112-25 of August 2, 2011) as amended should be further amended or repealed.
Additional emerging implications of the shift include a new or renewed emphasis on the
following in discussions of U.S. defense strategy, plans, and programs:
" grand strategy and geopolitics as part of the context for discussing U.S. defense
budgets, plans, and programs;
" U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe;
" capabilities for countering so-called hybrid warfare and gray-zone tactics
employed by countries such as Russia and China;
" capabilities for conducting so-called high-end warfare (i.e., large-scale, high-
intensity, technologically sophisticated warfare) against countries such as China
" maintaining U.S. technological superiority in conventional weapons;
" nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence;
" speed of weapon system development and deployment as a measure of merit in
defense acquisition policy; and
" minimizing reliance in U.S. military systems on components and materials from
Russia and China.
The issue for Congress is whether to conduct a broad reassessment of U.S. defense analogous to
the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR), and more generally, how U.S. defense funding levels,
strategy, plans, and programs should respond to changes in the international security
environment. Congress's decisions on these issues could have significant implications for U.S.
defense capabilities and funding requirements.
Congressional Research Service
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O'Rourke, Ronald. A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense--Issues for Congress, report, May 19, 2017; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc990759/m1/2/?q=%22international%20affairs%22: accessed January 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.