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Mattis’ Defense Strategy Raises China To Top Threat; Allies Feature Prominently

Posted by Colin Clark on


UPDATED: Adds Text Of SecDef Mattis’ Speech At SAIS

WASHINGTON: The Trump Administration’s first National Defense Strategy is a vigorously and well written document that marks a major shift from the policies of the Obama and Bush Administrations, calling China and Russia the “central challenge” to the United States.

The strategy, a late draft of which we’ve read, says those countries want to create a world in line with what it calls their authoritarian model, giving them the power to veto other countries’ choices. Terrorism remains a concern for the US military but it is no longer its primary focus. (The strategy is a Pentagon document that builds on the earlier White House-led National Security Strategy. The official version will be released tomorrow).

The strategy reserves its strongest language for China, accusing it of wielding predatory economics in combination with building its fake islands in the South China Sea to intimidate neighboring countries.

Chinese artificial island

What is America’s response? We will build a force designed to work with our allies that will “compete, deter and win.” This comes after what the strategy calls a period of strategic atrophy, during which our global military advantage has slipped. While American forces could deploy anywhere they wanted and whenever they wanted, today every domain is contested. In addition to China and Russia, the strategy also mentions North Korea and Iran as part of the inter-state strategic competition which is now the primary challenge to American interests.

The rapid movement of commercial technologies to the military sphere is changing the basis of war, it says. Developing new technologies that Breaking D readers are very familiar with — advanced computing, artificial intelligence, autonomy, hypersonics and biotechnology — should help the United States counter that trend.

One of the most intriguing elements in the new strategy is its idea that the US should be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable. That sounds as if Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to make President Trump’s personality an asset, given his unpredictability. But there’s also a firm commitment to something that has persisted since the end of World War II: the key role our allies have played in helping the US maintain the international liberal political order.

In language sure to delight our allies, about two pages of the summary highlight just how important alliances are to the United States as it faces this increasingly uncertain world, saying they are crucial. It even says multilateral organizations (the United Nations!) and NGOs provide additional means of bolstering US interests, in addition to those countries who are our allies and partners.

While there is no mention of the Obama administration’s Pacific pivot, the strategy does call for — wait for it — expanding Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships. It also calls for beefing up NATO, calling it vital to US security. There is, of course, mention that Europe must increase their defense spending. We bet the White House insisted on that line.

It’s worth remembering that the National Defense Strategy is not just a policy document. It also occupies an important place in the Pentagon’s budget process known as Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE). Its policy statements drive how much is spent on what. Most of the NDS is classified this year. What the public is seeing is a summary of the document.

Role of National Military Strategy in budget

The strategy lists capabilities we must modernize: nuclear forces; space and cyber, C4ISR; missile defense; and advanced autonomous systems.

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry told reporters on Tuesday he hoped the Trump administration would offer a strategy from which its 2019 budget would flow. (For how many years have we heard Pentagon officials bemoaning the lack of strategic guidance and grinding their teeth over budgetary salami slicing!).

In the draft conclusion, signed by Mattis, he says the strategy signals he will “pursue urgent change” across the military. If the classified version is anything as well reasoned and clearly stated as is the public summary — and the White House and Congress can pass bills and fund the military — America has a decent shot at beginning to rebuild its military and network of global alliances.

UPDATE BEGINS

DEAN LEWIS, THANK YOU FOR HOSTING ME TODAY. IT’S NOT LOST ON ME THAT THE JOHNS HOPKINS’ PAUL H. NITZE [nit-zuh] SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES IS NAMED FOR A MAN WHO GAVE SECRETARY GEORGE SHULTZ HIS TOWNHOUSE COUCH TO SLEEP ON, PROVING HE WAS A REMARKABLE JUDGE OF CHARACTER.  

DURING A REMARKABLE CAREER, HE SHAPED COLD WAR DEFENSE POLICY IN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL REPORT 68 AND SERVED AS SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.

THIS BACKGROUND MAKES “SAIS” A FITTING PLACE TO INTRODUCE OUR UNCLASSIFIED SUMMARY OF THE CLASSIFIED 2018 NATIONAL DEFENSE STRATEGY WE ARE DELIVERING TODAY TO CONGRESS, OUR NATION’S FIRST NATIONAL DEFENSE STRATEGY IN 10 YRS.

TO PROTECT AMERICA’S VITAL NATIONAL INTERESTS, THIS DEFENSE STRATEGY WAS FRAMED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP’S NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY, SPECIFICALLY: 

“PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, THE HOMELAND, AND THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE”, AND “PRESERVE PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH.” 

TODAY, AMERICA’S MILITARY RECLAIMS AN ERA OF STRATEGIC PURPOSE, ALERT TO THE REALITIES OF A CHANGING WORLD & ATTENTIVE TO THE NEED TO PROTECT OUR VALUES AND THE COUNTRIES THAT STAND WITH US.  

AMERICA’S MILITARY PROTECTS OUR WAY OF LIFE AND OUR REALM OF IDEAS—NOT JUST OUR GEOGRAPHY, AND THIS IS THE DEFENSE STRATEGY THAT WILL GUIDE OUR EFFORTS.  

THE WORLD, TO QUOTE GEORGE SHULTZ, IS “AWASH IN CHANGE,” DEFINED BY INCREASING GLOBAL VOLATILITY AND UNCERTAINTY, WITH GREAT POWER COMPETITION BETWEEN NATIONS A REALITY ONCE AGAIN.  

WE WILL CONTINUE TO PROSECUTE THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISTS, BUT GREAT POWER COMPETITION—NOT TERRORISM—IS NOW THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY.  

THIS STRATEGY IS FIT FOR OUR TIME—PROVIDING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE MILITARY REQUIRED TO PROTECT OUR WAY OF LIFE, STAND WITH OUR ALLIES, AND LIVE UP TO OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PASS INTACT TO THE NEXT GENERATION THOSE FREEDOMS WE ENJOY TODAY.  

ADAPTING TO TODAY’S REALITIES, THIS STRATEGY EXPANDS OUR COMPETITIVE SPACE, PRIORITIZES PREPAREDNESS FOR WAR, PROVIDES CLEAR DIRECTION FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGE AT THE SPEED OF RELEVANCE, AND BUILDS A MORE LETHAL FORCE TO COMPETE STRATEGICALLY.

THIS STRATEGY MAKES A CLEAR-EYED APPRAISAL OF OUR SECURITY ENVIRONMENT WITH A KEEN EYE ON AMERICA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD.  THIS REQUIRED TOUGH CHOICES—AND WE MADE THEM, BASED UPON A FUNDAMENTAL PRECEPT:  NAMELY, THAT AMERICA CAN AFFORD SURVIVAL.

WE FACE GROWING THREATS FROM REVISIONIST POWERS AS DIFFERENT AS CHINA AND RUSSIA, NATIONS THAT SEEK TO CREATE A WORLD CONSISTENT WITH THEIR AUTHORITARIAN MODELS—PURSUING VETO AUTHORITY OVER OTHER NATION’S ECONOMIC, DIPLOMATIC, AND SECURITY DECISIONS.

ROGUE REGIMES LIKE NORTH KOREA & IRAN PERSIST IN TAKING OUTLAW ACTIONS THAT THREATEN REGIONAL AND EVEN GLOBAL STABILITY.  OPPRESSING THEIR OWN PEOPLE AND SHREDDING THEIR DIGNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS, THEY PUSH THEIR WARPED VIEWS OUTWARD.  

AND DESPITE THE DEFEAT OF ISIS’S PHYSICAL CALIPHATE, VIOLENT EXTREMIST ORGANIZATIONS – LIKE LEBANESE HEZBOLLAH, ISIS, AND AL QAEDA – CONTINUE TO SOW HATRED, DESTROYING PEACE AND MURDERING INNOCENTS ACROSS THE GLOBE.

IN THIS TIME OF CHANGE, OUR MILITARY IS STILL STRONG, YET OUR COMPETITIVE EDGE HAS ERODED IN EVERY DOMAIN OF WARFARE—AIR, LAND, SEA, SPACE, AND CYBERSPACE—AND IS CONTINUALLY ERODING.  

RAPID TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, THE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON MILITARY READINESS RESULTING FROM THE LONGEST CONTINUOUS STRETCH OF COMBAT IN OUR NATION’S HISTORY, DEFENSE SPENDING CAPS, 

AND OPERATING FOR 9 OUT OF THE LAST TEN YEARS UNDER CONTINUING RESOLUTIONS HAVE CREATED AN OVERSTRETCHED AND UNDER-RESOURCED MILITARY.  

OUR MILITARY’S ROLE IS TO KEEP THE PEACE FOR ONE MORE YEAR… ONE MORE MONTH… ONE MORE DAY… TO ENSURE OUR NATION’S DIPLOMATS WHO ARE WORKING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS DO SO FROM A POSITION OF STRENGTH, GIVING ALLIES CONFIDENCE IN US.  

THIS CONFIDENCE IS UNDERPINNED BY THE ASSURANCE THAT OUR MILITARY WILL WIN SHOULD DIPLOMACY FAIL.

WHEN UNVEILING HIS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY, PRESIDENT TRUMP SAID “WEAKNESS IS THE SUREST PATH TO CONFLICT, AND UNQUESTIONED STRENGTH IS THE MOST CERTAIN MEANS OF DEFENSE.” 

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE NO ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY, AND HISTORY MAKES CLEAR THAT AMERICA HAS NO PRE-ORDAINED RIGHT TO VICTORY ON THE BATTLEFIELD.  

SIMPLY, WE MUST BE THE BEST IF THE VALUES THAT GREW OUT OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT ARE TO SURVIVE.

IT IS INCUMBENT UPON US TO FIELD A MORE LETHAL FORCE IF OUR NATION IS TO RETAIN THE ABILITY TO DEFEND OURSELVES AND WHAT WE STAND FOR.

THE DEFENSE STRATEGY’S THREE PRIMARY LINES OF EFFORT WILL RESTORE OUR COMPARATIVE MILITARY ADVANTAGE: 

WE ARE GOING TO BUILD A MORE LETHAL FORCE… WE WILL STRENGTHEN TRADITIONAL ALLIANCES WHILE BUILDING NEW PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER NATIONS. 

AT THE SAME TIME, WE WILL REFORM THE DEPARTMENT’S BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR PERFORMANCE AND AFFORDABILITY, 

THEREBY EARNING THE TRUST OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND CONGRESS THAT THEIR DEFENSE DOLLARS ARE WELL SPENT.

EVERYTHING WE DO MUST CONTRIBUTE TO THE LETHALITY OF OUR MILITARY.  

THE PARADOX OF WAR IS THAT AN ENEMY WILL ATTACK A PERCEIVED WEAKNESS, SO WE CANNOT ADOPT A SINGLE, PRECLUSIVE FORM OF WARFARE.

THIS MEANS THE SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF OUR FORCE MATTERS.  THE NATION MUST FIELD SUFFICIENT, CAPABLE FORCES TO DETER CONFLICT.  

IF DETERRENCE FAILS, WE MUST WIN.

WE WILL MODERNIZE KEY CAPABILITIES, RECOGNIZING WE CANNOT EXPECT SUCCESS FIGHTING TOMORROW’S CONFLICTS WITH YESTERDAY’S WEAPONS OR EQUIPMENT. 

 

INVESTMENTS IN SPACE AND CYBERSPACE, NUCLEAR DETERRENT FORCES, MISSILE DEFENSE, ADVANCED AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS, AND RESILIENT AND AGILE LOGISTICS WILL PROVIDE OUR HIGH-QUALITY TROOPS WHAT THEY NEED TO WIN. 

CHANGING OUR FORCES’ POSTURE WILL PRIORITIZE READINESS FOR WARFIGHTING FOR MAJOR COMBAT, MAKING US STRATEGICALLY PREDICTABLE FOR OUR ALLIES AND OPERATIONALLY UNPREDICTABLE FOR ANY ADVERSARY.  

INCREASING THE LETHALITY OF OUR TROOPS—SUPPORTED BY DEFENSE CIVILIANS—REQUIRES US TO RESHAPE OUR APPROACH TO MANAGING OUR OUTSTANDING TALENT, REINVIGORATING OUR MILITARY EDUCATION, AND HONING CIVILIAN WORKFORCE EXPERTISE.  

THE CREATIVITY AND TALENT OF THE DEPARTMENT IS OUR DEEPEST WELLSPRING OF STRENGTH, AND ONE THAT WARRANTS GREATER INVESTMENT.  

TO THOSE WHO WOULD THREATEN AMERICA’S EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY:  IF YOU CHALLENGE US, IT WILL BE YOUR LONGEST AND WORST DAY.  WORK WITH OUR DIPLOMATS… YOU DON’T WANT TO FIGHT THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.  

OUR SECOND LINE OF EFFORT IS TO STRENGTHEN ALLIANCES AS WE BUILD NEW PARTNERSHIPS.

IN MY PAST, I FOUGHT MANY TIMES, AND NEVER IN A SOLELY AMERICAN FORMATION; IT WAS ALWAYS ALONGSIDE FOREIGN TROOPS.  AS WINSTON CHURCHILL SAID, “THE ONLY THING HARDER THAN FIGHTING WITH ALLIES IS FIGHTING WITHOUT THEM,” BUT WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.

HISTORY PROVES THAT NATIONS WITH ALLIES THRIVE—AN APPROACH TO SECURITY AND PROSPERITY THAT HAS SERVED THE UNITED STATES WELL IN KEEPING PEACE AND WINNING WAR.  WORKING BY, WITH, AND THOUGH ALLIES WHO CARRY THEIR EQUITABLE SHARE ALLOWS US TO AMASS THE GREATEST POSSIBLE STRENGTH.

WE CARRIED A DISPROPORTIONATE SHARE OF THE DEFENSE BURDEN POST-WWII.  THE GROWING ECONOMIC STRENGTH OF TODAY’S DEMOCRACIES AND PARTNERS DICTATES THEY MUST NOW STEP UP AND DO MORE.

WHEN WE POOL RESOURCES AND SHARE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR COMMON DEFENSE, OUR SECURITY BURDEN BECOMES LIGHTER, 

AS DEMONSTRATED BY OVER 70 NATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS OF THE DEFEAT-ISIS CAMPAIGN, AND THE 4O-SOME NATIONS STANDING SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER IN NATO’S MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN.

TO STRENGTHEN AND WORK JOINTLY WITH MORE ALLIES, OUR ORGANIZATIONS, PROCESSES, AND PROCEDURES MUST BE ALLY-FRIENDLY.  THE DEPARTMENT WILL DO MORE THAN JUST LISTEN TO OTHER NATIONS’ IDEAS—WE WILL BE WILLING TO BE PERSUADED BY THEM.  

NOT ALL GOOD IDEAS COME FROM THE COUNTRY WITH THE MOST AIRCRAFT CARRIERS.

THIS LINE OF EFFORT WILL BOLSTER AN EXTENDED NETWORK CAPABLE OF DECISIVELY MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF OUR TIME.  

OUR THIRD LINE OF EFFORT SERVES AS THE FOUNDATION FOR OUR COMPETITIVE EDGE: REFORMING THE BUSINESS PRACTICES OF THE DEPARTMENT TO PROVIDE BOTH SOLVENCY AND SECURITY, 

THEREBY GAINING FULL BENEFIT FROM EVERY DOLLAR SPENT, TO GAIN AND HOLD THE TRUST OF THE CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.  

WE MUST BE GOOD STEWARDS OF THE TAX DOLLARS ALLOCATED US.  RESULTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY MATTER.

TO KEEP PACE WITH OUR TIMES, THE DEPARTMENT WILL TRANSITION TO A CULTURE OF PERFORMANCE AND AFFORDABILITY THAT OPERATES AT THE SPEED OF RELEVANCE.  

SUCCESS DOES NOT GO TO THE COUNTRY THAT DEVELOPS A NEW TECHNOLOGY FIRST, BUT RATHER TO THE ONE THAT BETTER INTEGRATES IT AND SWIFTLY ADAPTS ITS WAY OF FIGHTING.  

CURRENT BUREAUCRATIC PROCESSES ARE INSUFFICIENTLY RESPONSIVE TO THE DEPARTMENT’S NEEDS.  WE WILL PRIORITIZE SPEED OF DELIVERY, CONTINUOUS ADAPTATION, AND FREQUENT MODULAR UPGRADES.  

WE MUST SHED OUTDATED MANAGEMENT AND ACQUISITION PRACTICES WHILE ADOPTING AMERICAN INDUSTRIES’ BEST PRACTICES.

OUR MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE AND PROCESSES ARE NOT ENGRAVED IN STONE.  THEY ARE A MEANS TO AN END—EMPOWERING THE WARFIGHTER WITH THE KNOWLEDGE, EQUIPMENT, AND SUPPORT NEEDED TO FIGHT AND WIN.  

IF CURRENT STRUCTURES INHIBIT OUR PURSUIT OF LETHALITY, I EXPECT SERVICE SECRETARIES AND AGENCY HEADS TO CONSOLIDATE, ELIMINATE, OR RESTRUCTURE TO ACHIEVE THE MISSION.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHANAHAN IS LEADING OUR THIRD LINE OF EFFORT TO LEVERAGE THE SCALE OF OUR OPERATIONS, DRIVING BETTER DEALS FOR EQUIPPING OUR TROOPS.  

THIS NATIONAL DEFENSE STRATEGY WILL GUIDE ALL OUR ACTIONS—INCLUDING THE DEPARTMENT’S THREE LINES OF EFFORT—

BUT WE RECOGNIZE NO STRATEGY CAN LONG SURVIVE WITHOUT NECESSARY FUNDING AND THE STABLE, PREDICTABLE BUDGETS REQUIRED TO DEFEND AMERICA.  

FAILURE TO MODERNIZE OUR MILITARY RISKS LEAVING US WITH A FORCE THAT COULD DOMINATE THE LAST WAR BUT BE IRRELEVANT TO TOMORROW’S SECURITY.  

LET ME BE CLEAR: AS HARD AS THE LAST 16 YEARS OF WAR HAVE BEEN, NO ENEMY IN THE FIELD HAS DONE MORE TO HARM THE READINESS OF THE U.S. MILITARY THAN THE

COMBINED IMPACT OF THE BUDGET CONTROL ACT’S DEFENSE SPENDING CAPS, AND 9 OF THE LAST 10 YEARS OPERATING UNDER CONTINUING RESOLUTIONS, WASTING COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF PRECIOUS TAXPAYER DOLLARS.  

AS OUR COMPETITIVE EDGE OVER OUR FOES ERODES DUE TO BUDGETARY CONFUSION, EVEN WITH STORM CLOUDS GATHERING TODAY, AMERICA’S MILITARY IS OPERATING UNDER YET ANOTHER CONTINUING RESOLUTION.

FOR TOO LONG WE HAVE ASKED OUR MILITARY TO STOICALLY CARRY A “SUCCESS AT ANY COST” ATTITUDE, AS THEY WORK TIRELESSLY TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION WITH INADEQUATE AND MISALIGNED RESOURCES SIMPLY BECAUSE THE CONGRESS COULD NOT MAINTAIN REGULAR ORDER.  

LOYALTY MUST BE A TWO-WAY STREET.  WE EXPECT THE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND WOMEN OF OUR MILITARY TO BE FAITHFUL IN THEIR SERVICE, EVEN WHEN GOING IN HARM’S WAY.  

WE MUST REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THOSE WHO VOLUNTARILY SIGN A BLANK CHECK TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, PAYABLE WITH THEIR LIFE.  AS SPEAKER RYAN SAID YESTERDAY, “OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM ARE NOT BARGAINING CHIPS.”

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT PROVIDING A BUDGET ARE CLEAR.  WITHOUT A SUSTAINED BUDGET:

  • SHIPS WILL NOT RECEIVE THE REQUIRED MAINTENANCE TO PUT TO SEA…
  • SHIPS AT SEA WILL STAY TOO LONG AWAY FROM PORT…  
  • AIRCRAFT WILL REMAIN ON THE GROUND…  
  • AMMUNITION, TRAINING, AND MANPOWER WILL NOT BE SUFFICIENT TO DETER WAR… 

BUT I AM OPTIMISTIC THAT CONGRESS WILL DO THE RIGHT THING AND CARRY OUT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. 

AS SENATOR REED SAID IN NOVEMBER, WE NEED BIPARTISAN INVESTMENT IN OUR TROOPS TO “ENHANCE MILITARY READINESS AND HELP US MEET EVOLVING NATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES.”  IT IS CONGRESS THAT HAS THE CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO RAISE THE ARMY AND TO MAINTAIN THE NAVY.  

AS I STAND HERE THIS MORNING, WATCHING THE NEWS OFF THE HILL, WE’RE ON THE VERGE OF A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN OR, AT BEST, YET ANOTHER DEBILITATING CONTINUING RESOLUTION.

WE NEED CONGRESS BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT OF BUDGET DECISIONS, NOT IN THE SPECTATOR’S SEAT OF THE BUDGET CONTROL ACT’S INDISCRIMINATE AND AUTOMATIC CUTS.  

WE NEED A BUDGET AND WE NEED BUDGET PREDICTABILITY IF WE’RE TO SUSTAIN OUR MILITARY’S PRIMACY.

MANY OF US IN THIS ROOM WERE BORN FREE BY ACCIDENT AND WE CAN LIVE HERE BY CHOICE THANKS TO THE PATRIOTS WHO SERVE TODAY IN OUR MILITARY.  YET WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PASS INTACT TO THE NEXT GENERATION THE SAME FREEDOMS WE ENJOY.

THIS STRATEGY, RESOURCED APPROPRIATELY, WILL ENSURE WE LIVE UP TO OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR CHILDREN’S GENERATION.

UPDATE ENDS

What do you think?