Special Commentary: Domestic Politics and the Military’s COVID-19 Response

William Braun
Content Type
Commentary and Analysis
The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare several long-dormant vulnerabilities, and opportunities, associated with US national security and military business practices. Military leaders must consider political context when making resource prioritization decisions that attend to these new perspectives. Three controversial political themes dominate the national security dialogue in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. First, the nation’s initial focus will likely be on the economic recovery effort, while incorporating preparations to mitigate the reemergence of COVID-19 or a future pandemic. Second, the nation may experience a prolonged period of austerity, possibly combined with greater taxation, to recover COVID-19 related mitigation debt. Finally, because of these first two issues, defense budgets are likely to experience cuts. Defense spending is the only viable discretionary spending category subject to belt-tightening measures amid the divisive political gridlock and vitriol of a highly contentious election year. Emerging analysis suggests the probability of economic stagnation, uneven sector and state economic recovery, mounting national debt, and political infighting in the shadow of a contentious election will underpin these themes. However, analyses of military implications are less developed. Military resource prioritization choices are often biased by traditional justification reasoning and conventional force management assumptions. Arguments defending these choices may not adequately account for the influence of domestic political agendas, structural power pressures, or the military’s culture. This paper will examine domestic political trends, their potential military implications, and offer a few defense management arguments to augment traditional justification reasoning. A future article will consider the influence of stakeholder’s structural power, the culture of the Army’s defense management enterprise, and their influence on arguments used to defend resource prioritization choices.
National Security, Military Affairs, Domestic politics, COVID-19
Political Geography
North America, United States of America