Donald Trump’s election was as much a surprise to the defense world as it was to much of the nation.
Here are five key things the Pentagon can expect from Trump.
1. Rising spending
Trump has called for a much bigger military and some experts think he could increase defense spending by 20 percent, from $583 billion in 2017 to nearly $700 billion.While that may sound like a lot, it is in line with what the Obama administration projected for 2012 before the Pentagon was hit with sequestration — mandatory budget caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Trump has called for increasing the size of the active duty Army from 475,000 to 540,000 troops, and the Marine Corps from 24 to 36 battalions. He wants to build a 350-ship Navy, have 1,200 fighter aircraft in the Air Force and increase missile defense.
Trump has pledged to lift limits on spending from the 2011 budget bill, something that would require action by Congress and could be difficult. The limits are in place until 2021.
The Congress is controlled by the GOP, but not all Republicans are in favor of more military spending.
Increasing defense spending could also increase the deficit, something Trump and the GOP are loathe to do. He separately wants to cut taxes, including for the wealthy, would could add to deficit concerns.
2. Targeting ISIS
Trump has said he would “aggressively pursue” military operations to “crush and destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but what that would entail is far from clear.
By the time Trump takes office on Jan. 20, offensives to retake ISIS’s strongholds in both countries will be underway, but the terrorist group is expected to continue waging an insurgency in both places even if they fall.
Trump would likely seek cooperation with Russia in Syria to defeat ISIS, but it’s not clear what that would mean. Russia began an air campaign there in September 2015, but has been hitting anti-regime rebels supported by the U.S., as well as civilians.
Trump has also called for international cooperation to cut off ISIS’s funding, expanding intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt its propaganda and recruiting. Trump has said he would also “decimate” Al Qaeda.
3. Syria and Afghanistan
Nearly 500,000 people have been killed and 11 million displaced by the Syrian war, an intractable problem for President Obama.
Trump has suggested that Syria President Bashar al-Assad is better than the “alternative,” which would be the coalition of anti-regime rebels that include U.S.-backed moderates as well as extremists. At the same time, Trump has said he would build safe zones in Syria, in order to stop the flow of refugees into Europe.
Those two goals are somewhat contradictory, as Syria and Russia have a broad definition of “terrorists” and have been hitting those civilians the safe zones would protect. U.S. defense officials and experts say implementing safe zones would mean war with Syria, and possibly Russia.
Trump’s future policy in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has 9,800 troops, is also unclear.
Before his bid for presidency, he had called for withdrawing troops, and criticized efforts to nation-build in the country. He reiterated that sentiment earlier this year, saying at a rally in August that he would end “the era of nation building.”
However, with the Taliban making a comeback, and al Qaeda and ISIS militants also trying to build safe havens, there will be pressure for Trump to maintain U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
4. Closer ties with Russia?
U.S. relations with Russia could improve under Trump.
Trump has said he could meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin before he takes office in January, and repeatedly complimented him during the campaign.
His statements on Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine territory in Crimea and his refusal to blame Russia for cyber hacks against U.S. political institutions has unnerved people in both parties.
It’s possible Trump won’t change policy toward Russia.
Vice President-elect Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) took a much harder line against Russia during the campaign, suggesting during the vice presidential debate that the U.S. Could take military action against Russia in Syria.
Trump will likely face staunch opposition to cozier relations from Congress from key Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), whose name has been floated for secretary of State under Trump, has been highly critical of Russia’s role in Syria.
Some experts say although Trump may seek to actively engage Russia, cooperation would likely be based on what’s mutually beneficial.
“He is a deal maker so he’s going to want things in return for giving Russia what it is seeking,” said Paul Schwartz, defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Trump’s win also puts the future of the 67-year-old NATO alliance in question at a time when lawmakers are working on bulking up the eastern flank to deter an increasingly aggressive Russia and finding ways to combat hybrid warfare, cyber attacks and terrorism.
Trump called NATO obsolete multiple times over the course of the campaign, saying it should do more to fight terrorism. Trump also said he would look at whether NATO allies have “fulfilled their obligations to us” before deciding whether to defend them if they are attacked.
Just five of 28 members meet the goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense: the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said there are a few paths Trump could take to fulfill his campaign promise.
In one scenario, Trump could immediately pull out of commitments to defend countries that aren’t meeting their 2 percent obligations.
Trump could also make deals with such countries that give them a few years to meet the goal.
5. Guantanamo stays
With President Obama unlikely to fulfill his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by Jan. 20, Trump will inherit the facility and almost certainly keep it open.
Obama has emptied the detention center of all but 60 detainees. Of that, 20 have been cleared for transfer, and the administration is working to send them to other countries before Inauguration Day.
Trump has said he’ll keep Guantanamo open and “load it up with bad dudes.”
Trump has also said that he’s “fine” with prosecuting American citizens facing terrorism charges at Guantanamo military commissions as opposed to civilian courts on domestic soil.
And he’s pledged to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse” to interrogate suspected terrorists, such as those held at Guantanamo.