A “masterpiece” is how then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan infamously described the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request. It would, he said, align defense spending with the U.S. National Defense Strategy — both funding the future capabilities necessary to maintain an advantage over near-peer powers Russia and China, and maintaining readiness for ongoing counter-terror campaigns.
The result was underwhelming. While research and development funding increased in 2020, it did not represent the funding shift toward future capabilities that observers expected. Despite its massive size, the budget was insufficient to address the department's long-term challenges. Key emerging technologies identified by the department — such as hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and directed-energy weapons — still lacked a “clear and sustained commitment to investment.” It was clear that the Department of Defense did not make the difficult tradeoffs necessary to fund long-term modernization. The Congressional Budget Office further estimated that the cost of implementing the plans, which were in any case insufficient to meet the defense strategy's requirements, would be about 2 percent higher than department estimates.