Publication: The Military Balance 2015
14 February 2015
At the start of 2014, US defence planners were facing complex security and policy preoccupations, including managing the drawdown in Afghanistan, China’s continuing rise, the state of negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme, the continuing campaign against terrorism, as well as dealing with the effects of defence-budget cuts. From early in the year, this defence agenda became more crowded and by October included the possible return of sequestration in FY2016; the Ukraine crisis and its effect on relations with Russia as well as on broader European security; the Ebola outbreak in Africa; and the increase in violence in Syria and Iraq – particularly the territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
However, on matters of military reform, budgetary reallocation, the downsizing of the army, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and overall defence-modernisation strategy, there was more continuity than change in both policy and budget debates. Indeed, the Obama administration continued the basic contours of the essentially realist foreign policy established during its first term: a preference for active diplomacy, emphasis on building counter-terrorism partnerships and avoiding protracted military deployments.