History will regard the year 2018 as a period of profound change within the U.S. Department of Defense. This past year saw the release of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, a strategy characterized by three lines of effort: build a more lethal force; strengthen alliances and attract new partners; and reform the department for greater performance and affordability.
To resource these lines of effort, Congress passed the largest defense budget in history with overwhelming bipartisan support. As a result, we are restoring readiness to our planes, ships and munitions; strengthening our relationships around the world; and reforming the department as we modernize the force.
By growing force size, increasing partnered training, improving fighter jet maintenance and expanding foreign military sales, we have generated momentum toward NDS implementation. Now we must increase that momentum by bridging gaps in our capabilities and capitalizing on the technological and industrial advantages that will increase our military’s lethality. As we look to build on this progress in 2019, three areas offer opportunities to assure our military advantage now and into the future: missiles, space and cyber.
In 2019, we will leverage advances in long-range precision fires, hypersonics and missile defense systems. We will improve and adapt the systems that protect our homeland, international partners and overseas assets from adversary missiles. We will also accelerate efforts to pursue next-generation missile defense technologies to defend against advanced missile systems. At the same time, we will develop offensive capabilities including hypersonic strike systems, advanced intermediate-range cruise missiles and improved ballistic missiles. These capabilities will be part of a modular and cost-effective architecture, allowing us to take advantage of commercially available systems and economies of scale.
In space, we will move forward with a legislative proposal for the Space Force as a sixth service of the U.S. military and establish a space-focused combatant command. Simultaneously, we will build the Space Development Agency, a joint development arm that will merge the varied space-based systems and technologies living within the department with new technologies and equipment to dominate this contested, war-fighting environment.
In developing these organizations, we will go small in terms of headquarters and overhead, and big in terms of capability. Finally, we will leverage the significant investments, skills and technology of the commercial space industry.
In the coming year we will also move to rapidly integrate the disparate cyber efforts throughout the department and operationalize our cyber strategy while building on our recent experiences with advanced authorities. Through the newly created Protecting Critical Technology Task Force, we will strengthen cyber protection of our defense-industrial base. In parallel, we will scale artificial intelligence throughout the department and expand joint force advantages through the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, established this past year.
Thanks to President Donald Trump’s vision and Secretary James Mattis’ leadership, as well as the bipartisan support of Congress, we’ve seen the benefits of a unified, whole-of-government approach guided by a clear-eyed National Defense Strategy.
Now we must generate increased performance in the three key areas outlined: missiles, space and cyber. Doing so will lay the groundwork for 2020, the year we fully integrate the NDS across all echelons and ensure dominance across all domains. Doing so will require a heightened focus from the entire department in partnership with Congress and our defense-industrial base. Let us meet the challenges together.
Patrick Shanahan is the deputy secretary of defense at the U.S. Defense Department.