Publication Date: November 1, 2023

America is facing the most dangerous and complex geopolitical environment since World War II. Ensuring the adequacy and flexibility of our defense budget is essential to keeping our nation secure and the world safe for global democracy. Defense Budgeting for a Safer World brings together the ideas, perspectives, and solutions of America’s most renowned experts on national security and the defense budget.

The volume originates from a conference held at the Hoover Institution in early 2023 and reflects the presentations, discussions, and debates among military and civilian leaders. Drawing on their remarkable experience leading the Pentagon, the services, Congress, and academe, these experts lay out the key priorities in reforming, realigning, and rightsizing the budget amid current challenges. Several topics converge: national security threats, strategy, technology and innovation, personnel, reform options, and the politics of the defense budget. This unique compilation covers each of the major areas of debate in forging and sustaining a defense budget capable of supporting the nation’s security needs.


Secretary Condoleezza Rice




Michael J. Boskin, John N. Rader, and Kiran Sridhar

1. The Geopolitical, Military, and Fiscal Context for Defense Budget Reform
Michael J. Boskin, John N. Rader, and Kiran Sridhar

Part 1: National Security Threats

2. The Military Challenge of the People’s Republic of China
Oriana Skylar Mastro

3. I Spy a Problem: Transforming US Intelligence Agencies for the Technological Age
Amy Zegart

4. Terrorism and Counterterrorism in an Era of Great-Power Competition
Joseph H. Felter

Presentations and Discussion
General Keith Alexander, Admiral Gary Roughead, and Michael McFaul Moderated by Commander Bart D’Angelo

Part 2: National Security Strategy

5. The International Environment and Threat Backdrop
Michael O’Hanlon

6. America’s Operational Imperatives: Some Budgetary Considerations
Nadia Schadlow

Presentations and Discussion
Michael O’Hanlon, Admiral Mike Mullen, and H.R. McMaster Moderated by Lieutenant Colonel James M. Harrington

Part 3: Technology, Innovation, Procurement

7. Investing in Emerging Technologies: Lessons from Unmanned Systems
Jacquelyn Schneider

8. Our Military Debt Crisis: Preserving America’s Strategic Solvency
James M. Cunningham

9. A Requiem for Defense Innovation? Ukraine, the Pentagon’s Innovator’s Dilemma, and Why the United States Risks Strategic Surprise
Christopher Kirchhoff

10. Department of Defense Budgeting: The Unrecognized National Security Threat
Michael Brown

Presentations and Discussion
Michèle Flournoy, Eric Fanning, and Raj Shah Moderated by Kiran Sridhar

Featured Discussion
Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary Leon Panetta Moderated by Secretary Condoleezza Rice

Part 4: Personnel and Talent Recruitment and Retention

11. The Challenges of the People Portfolio
David S. C. Chu

12. Cyber: From Bleeding Talent to Bleeding Edge
Vishaal “V8” Hariprasad and Casey “Waldo” Miller

13. The All-Volunteer Force at Fifty: Productivity, Peace, and (Unmet) Potential
Tim Kane

Presentations and Discussion
David S. C. Chu and Mackenzie Eaglen Moderated by Captain Corey Braddock

Part 5: Reform Recommendations and Budget Implications

14. Keeping the Pentagon Running: Commonsense Changes to Defense Budgeting
Mackenzie Eaglen

15. Reforming Defense Budgeting
Elaine McCusker

16. US Defense Budget Reform: Historical Perspectives (1940s–2020s)
Mark R. Wilson

17. Go Big or Go Home
Roger Zakheim

Presentations and Discussion
Admiral Gary Roughead, Ellen Lord, and David L. Norquist Moderated by Michael J. Boskin

Part 6: The View from Congress: National Security and the Budget

18. Can We Buy Like We Talk?
Mac Thornberry

Presentation and Discussion
Mac Thornberry
Moderated by John N. Rader

About the Contributors

About the Tennenbaum Program for Fact-Based Policy


overlay image