All roads lead to the National Defense Strategy from here on out, Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote Jan. 27 in a memo to top military leadership.

The Pentagon plans to put its money where its mouth is as it announces the fiscal year 2021 budget, according to the memo, focusing funding on the kinds of programs and weapons that will bring the U.S. up to snuff with competitors like China and Russia.

Modernizing weapons, strengthening alliances and supporting service members are among the goals for the $740 billion the White House and Pentagon will propose to Congress, which will ensure “irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” the memo reads.

Here are some of the priority highlights:

  • Improving living conditions in on-base housing.
  • Supporting on-base childcare facilities.
  • Supporting education and licensing for military spouses.
  • Putting money back into nuclear deterrence and homeland missile defense.
  • A “robust” pay and benefits package.
  • Standing up the Space Force.
  • Developing hypersonic and directed energy weapons, artificial intelligence and autonomous platforms.
  • Putting together a “Joint Warfighting Concept” to get all of the services on the same page on the battlefield.
  • Keeping up relationships with foreign partners through training exercises and operations.
  • Supporting burden-sharing with NATO allies.

The White House is expected to unveil its budget proposal on Monday. Once submitted to Congress, it will take the better part of this year for lawmakers to square the Trump administration’s figures with their own priorities.

President Donald Trump signed the 2020 spending bill on Dec. 20, 2019, nearly four months into the fiscal year. In recent years, hot-button issues like border wall funding have held up the bill’s move through Congress.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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