1 1 (April 30, 2020)

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April 30, 2020


COVID-19: National Security and Defense Strategy


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted
questions about U.S. national security and crisis
preparedness. Inherent to those discussions are broader,
foundational questions about how the United States
government conceptualizes national security, and the
currently held view by many of the relative prioritization of
the Department of Defense (DOD) over other instruments
of national power.


While definitional debates often seem frustratingly obscure,
their outcomes often have a significant bearing on the
programs, priorities, and activities of the United States
Government. In other words, how a problem is framed
matters because those definitions directly affect how the
government operates, including how it translates those
concepts into the priorities that require primary attention
and resources.
Scholars and practitioners have long debated what, exactly,
constitutes a security challenge, and what the role of the
state should be in their management. The tension between
traditional realist security and human security
perspectives provides one example of how these debates
can play out. Traditional analyses contended that security is
synonymous with the mitigation of military risk and the
effective deterrence-or prosecution-of warfare between
states. In the 1990s, responding in part to genocides in
Africa and the Balkans, as well as humanitarian and
financial crises, some analysts widened the aperture for
security studies. Human security, a concept of security
that uses the individual as its referent point and focuses on
the overall well-being of people within society, became
another way that scholars and practitioners began
evaluating security.
Over time, issues such as access to health, impacts of
climate change, food and energy security, and even to some
extent counterinsurgency have become associated with the
concept of human security. A key question for
policymakers has been to what extent, if any, concepts and
issues that have become associated with human security
should be integrated into national security planning that is
still to a significant degree based on updated versions of
traditional security concepts.
On one hand, some observers contend that human
security is too broad to be useful for policy planning; if
everything is a security priority, nothing is a security
priority. Other practitioners, building on that point, argue
that the expansive human security definition obscures the
formidable defense challenges that adversaries around the
globe pose through their military modernization
investments. One example: analysts express concern that
adversaries including Russia and China, and to a lesser
extent Iran and North Korea, have invested in anti-


access/area denial capabilities designed to limit U.S.
freedom of action and therefore constrain America's ability
to advance its interests around the globe. U.S. adversaries
such as Russia and China are also modernizing their nuclear
capabilities. According to this more traditional view,
diluting the concept of security in defense planning risks
the United States being unprepared for a major conflict,
should it arise.
Other observers respond that some human security
approaches better reflect extant realities. As their logic
goes, over the past 25 years, non-traditional security
challenges such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pandemics
including the 2016 Ebola outbreak and now COVID-19
have all commanded more U.S. attention and resources than
conventional warfare with another nation-state. They argue
that choosing to define security narrowly is choosing to
ignore the challenges with which the U.S. government-
and U.S. military-have had to contend, and are likely to
have to do so in the future.
     E~r~U S. Cvc%rrnc z Oeft  t    of scz.rity
The Obama Administration arguably used a more expansive
definition of security in its strategy documents. Its 2010
National Security Strategy argued that key threats to the
United States have evolved:
  Wars over ideology have given way to wars over
  religious, ethnic, and tribal identity; nuclear dangers
  have proliferated; inequality and economic instability
  have intensified; damage to our environment, food
  insecurity, and dangers to public health are increasingly
  shared; and the same tools that empower individuals to
  build enable them to destroy.
The Trump Administration, by contrast, chose to focus the
national security agenda on strategic competition, primarily
with key adversarial states:
  China   and   Russia  challenge   American   power,
  influence, and interests, attempting to erode American
  security and prosperity. They are determined to make
  economies less free and less fair, to grow their
  militaries, and to control information and data to repress
  their societies and expand their influence. At the same
  time, the dictatorships of the democratic People's
  Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are
  determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans
  and our allies, and brutalize their own people.
  Transnational threat groups, from jihadist terrorists to
  transnational criminal organizations, are actively trying
  to harm Americans.
Preventing China and Russian from developing military
capabilities superior to those of the U.S. and creating


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