Mattis Releases National Defense Strategy - More Lethal And Flexible Force Structure

Increased Emphasis On Countering China And Russia

January 19, 2018 - San Francico, CA - – Today Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced the new National Defense Strategy during a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Its release is considered significant since the last such review occurred a decade ago, a very long time in the rapidly evolving, technology rich world of modern defense theory.

Overall the document embodies and is consistent with President Trump’s campaign pledge to return to the Reagan era strategy of peace through strength .

Defense officials were quick to point out that “this is not a strategy of confrontation, but it is strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.” [source, Jim Garamone, Rebuild Dominance, Enhance Deterrence and Lethality , U.S. Department of Defense]

While still engaging terrorism and the global jihad, the emphasis will shift to large state actors, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

As DoD spokesman Elbridge Colby stated, “the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation.”

The document also outlined new methods of exploiting and enhancing the strength of America’s alliances:

“The joint force should be ready to compete, to deter and - if necessary - to win against any adversary,” hence force “modernization” - often merely a buzzword – will become an integral part of the general strategy.

Other Key Takeaways:

Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding. We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order—creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.

A more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force, combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners, will sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order. Collectively, our force posture, alliance and partnership architecture, and Department modernization will provide the capabilities and agility required to prevail in conflict and preserve peace through strength.

The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.

New commercial technology will change society and, ultimately, the character of war. The fact that many technological developments will come from the commercial sector means that state competitors and non-state actors will also have access to them, a fact that risks eroding the conventional overmatch to which our Nation has grown accustomed. Maintaining the Department’s technological advantage will require changes to industry culture, investment sources, and protection across the National Security Innovation Base.

Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department, and require both increased and sustained investment, because of the magnitude of the threats they pose to U.S. security and prosperity today, and the potential for those threats to increase in the future. Concurrently, the Department will sustain its efforts to deter and counter rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran, defeat terrorist threats to the United States, and consolidate our gains in Iraq and Afghanistan while moving to a more resource-sustainable approach.

Primary Defense objectives include:

  • Defending the homeland from attack;
  • Sustaining Joint Force military advantages, both globally and in key regions;
  • Deterring adversaries from aggression against our vital interests;
  • Enabling U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests;
  • Maintaining favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere;
  • Defending allies from military aggression and bolstering partners against coercion, and fairly sharing responsibilities for common defense;
  • Dissuading, preventing, or deterring state adversaries and non-state actors from acquiring, proliferating, or using weapons of mass destruction;
  • Preventing terrorists from directing or supporting external operations against the United States homeland and our citizens, allies, and partners overseas;
  • Ensuring common domains remain open and free;
  • Continuously delivering performance with affordability and speed as we change Departmental mindset, culture, and management systems; and
  • Establishing an unmatched twenty-first century National Security Innovation Base that effectively supports Department operations and sustains security and solvency.

The non-classified text of the study is available here: 2018 National Defense Strategy [Declassified]

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