National Defense Strategy

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The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America is a strategy paper that is done every four years and which "provides the policy basis on which the armed services plan their research, development and acquisitions of weapons systems." [1]

The current strategy was signed March 1, 2005, by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. In it Rumsfeld "emphasizes the importance of influencing events before challenges become more dangerous and less manageable." [2]

On March 18, 2005, "Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Douglas J. Feith and Vice Director, Strategic Plans and Policy (J5) for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. William D. Sullivan" briefed the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy at a press conference held at the DoD Briefing Room in the Pentagon. [3]

Summary of 2005 Strategy

To sum up the thrust of the document, in the Foreword, Rumsfeld states:

"The Department of Defense is implementing the President's commitment to the 'forward defense of freedom' as articulated in the National Security Strategy. This National Defense Strategy outlines our approach to dealing with challenges we likely will confront, not just those we are currently best prepared to meet. Our intent is to create favorable security conditions around the world and to continue to transform how we think about security, formulate strategic objectives, and adapt to achieve success.
"This strategy emphasizes the importance of influencing events before challenges become more dangerous and less manageable. It builds upon the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to develop an adaptable, global approach that acknowledges the limits of our intelligence (in all sense of the term), anticipates surprises, and positions us to handle strategic certainty.
"Since the QDR was released, events have confirmed the importance of assuring allies and friends, dissuading potential adversaries, deterring aggression and coercion, and defeating adversaries. The war on terrorism has exposed new challenges, but also unprecedented strategic opportunities to work at home and with allies and partners abroad to create conditions favorable to a secure international order."

Strategic Objectives

  • Secure the United States from direct attack.
  • Secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action.
  • Strengthen alliances and partnerships.
  • Establish favorable security conditions.

Accomplishing the Objectives

  • Assure allies and friends.
  • Dissuade potential adversaries.
  • Deter aggression and counter coercion.
  • Defeat adversaries: "At the direction of the President, we will defeat adversaries at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing--setting conditions for future security." [emphasis added].


  • Active, layered defense.
  • Continuous transformation.
  • Capabilities-based approach.
  • Managing risks.

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