After months of waiting, Biden’s National Security Strategy is ‘coming soon’

Abraham Lincoln transits the South China Sea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the South China Sea. Abraham Lincoln Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Thaddeus Berry)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s long-awaited National Security Strategy is “coming soon” and despite an ever-evolving security landscape, won’t contain any major surprises, according to a White House official.

“I think you will see the themes largely unchanged [from the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance released in March 2021],” Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control for the White House, said during the ComDef conference on Tuesday. “I don’t think you’ll see any big surprises but rather a sharper articulation of those things.”

Abercrombie did not provide further details about the timing of the rollout. In a later speech at ComDef, German Brig. Gen. Fritz Urbach, the defense attaché for the European Union in Washington, said he believes the document will be released in “a matter of weeks.”

Both the NSS and National Defense Strategy were anticipated to come out early this year, with the NSS published first and the NDS following shortly after — and both before the release of the president’s fiscal 2023 budget request.

But only the classified version of the NDS has been released so far. The Defense Department delivered it to Capitol Hill in conjunction with the FY23 budget request in March in an apparent effort to prove to lawmakers that the request was guided by the administration’s defense strategy and not the other way around.

A two page interim NDS factsheet released in March labeled China as the “pacing challenge” for the Pentagon, with Russia representing an “acute threat” that is both immediate and but potentially less dangerous than the rising threat of China.

However, lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon for not making a full unclassified NDS available to the public.

“I think having this hearing without any detailed information about the budget and when we are unable to openly discuss any of the administration’s strategy documents directly undermines the committee’s ability to conduct its oversight work,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in April. “And it is contrary to the spirit of transparent government that these public hearings are intended to support.”

On Tuesday, Abercrombie said the full unclassified version of the NDS “will be coming out shortly as well,” but did not stipulate when.

Although Abercrombie downplayed the idea that the White House has made major edits to the NSS over the past few months, Defense News reported in August that the Biden administration had rewritten the strategy to have a larger focus on Russia due to the ongoing war with Ukraine. At the time the White House was considering a September release for the document, but with only two days left in the month, it seems unlikely to meet that timeframe.

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