JUST IN: New National Defense Strategy Focuses on Familiar and Emerging Threats
The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy — which was released to the public Oct. 27 — prioritizes the procurement of high-end capabilities that can deter and defeat China and other U.S. adversaries, but questions remain about the industrial base’s ability to meet the demand for current and future weapons.
The Biden administration released the unclassified 2022 National Defense Strategy six months after a classified version was sent to Congress for review. Despite the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the latest strategy labels China as the United States’ “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades.”
“The key theme of the NDS is the need to sustain and strengthen U.S. deterrence with the People's Republic of China as our pacing challenge,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters at a press conference announcing the release of the strategy.
“As the President's National Security Strategy notes, the PRC is the only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order, and increasingly, the power to do so,” Austin added.
While Beijing is considered the United States’ “pacing challenge,” the department has named Russia as an “acute threat” that can pose systematic challenges to the United States over the long-term, Austin said. Similar to the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the new document noted that Iran, North Korea, threats to homeland security and violent extremist organizations also pose significant threats to the United States.
The new strategy calls for pursuing three primary lines of effort to restore the United States’ comparative military advantage: integrated deterrence, campaigning and building enduring advantages.
In addition, it notes that rapid evolution of certain technologies is changing the operational picture for the Defense Department. The document listed capabilities such as space-based technologies, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, quantum science and more that “have the potential not just to change kinetic conflict, but also to disrupt day-to-day U.S. supply chain and logistics operations.”
While the National Defense Strategy does outline the emerging threats the United States is facing, there is less guidance on how the defense industrial base can meet these demands, said Seth Jones, senior vice president and director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
During a call with reporters, Jones noted there is “a gap between what the National Defense Strategy says and what the U.S. is prepared for. This really is an industrial base that — at least in my judgment — is in no way fully prepared to fight, let alone deter the Chinese.”
Deficiencies in the defense industrial base that were exposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could worsen in a conflict in the Indo-Pacific, which the National Defense Strategy is largely focused on, he added.
“There are a range of challenges we’re seeing with our industrial base, including defense companies not wanting to take financial risks without … multi-year contracts in place. We’re seeing workforce and supply chain constraints on increased demand for weapons systems and munitions,” Jones said. He also noted vulnerabilities in the supply chains for rare-earth minerals, semiconductors and microelectronics.
Another challenge is the time needed to bolster the U.S. defense industrial base, he added.
“Even if we wanted to get up those munitions requirements for a war — and certainly deterrence in the Indo-Pacific — we’re talking about significant time lags, at least two years, to deliver the first missiles,” he said.
Along with the new defense strategy, the Defense Department released updated Nuclear Posture and Missile Defense reviews.
“This is the first time in the department's history that we conducted all of our major strategic reviews together,” Austin said. “By weaving these documents together, we help ensure that the entire department is moving forward together and matching our resources to our goals.”
The Missile Defense Review underscores the need for capabilities that can undermine an adversary’s confidence in their ability to carry out missile attacks, he added. The document noted that ballistic, cruise and hypersonic missiles — in addition to the emerging threat of unmanned aircraft systems — are complicating traditional approaches to air-and-missile defenses.
The updated document takes a more “comprehensive” and “aggressive” approach to air-and-missile defense toward getting left-of-launch — finding ways to disrupt missile development programs and individual missiles before they’re fired — and incorporating non-kinetic effects, said Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS.
“In some respects, the big question for air-and-missile defense is the degree to which it is aligned with the big question, … which is, are you dealing with a major problem of China and Russia,” Karako said. “Because U.S. missile defense efforts for so many decades have largely been focused on the rogue state problem.”
Likewise, the Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms that nuclear capabilities are used to deter possible nuclear threats against the United States and its allies and partners, Austin said.
“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries,” the document read. “This will create new stresses on stability and new challenges for deterrence, assurance, arms control and risk reduction.”
Topics: Defense Department