Report to Congress on Great Power Competition and National Defense

December 20, 2019 9:23 AM

The following is the Dec. 19, 2019 report, Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

From the report

Many observers have concluded that the post-Cold War era of international relations—an era that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and that was sometimes also referred to as the unipolar moment, with the United States as the unipolar power—began to fade in 2006-2008, and that by 2014, the international environment had shifted to a fundamentally different situation of renewed great power competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.

The shift to renewed great power competition was acknowledged in the Obama Administration’s June 2015 National Military Strategy, and more fully in the Trump Administration’s December 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and January 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), which formally reoriented U.S. national security strategy and U.S. defense strategy toward an explicit primary focus on great power competition with China and Russia. DOD officials have identified countering China’s military capabilities as DOD’s top priority.

The shift to renewed great power competition has profoundly changed the conversation about U.S. defense issues from what it was prior to 2014, leading to a reduced relative emphasis in the conversation on counterterrorist operations (although such operations continue), and to a new or renewed emphasis in the conversation on

  • grand strategy and geopolitics as part of the context for discussing U.S. defense issues;
  • nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence;
  • new U.S. military service operational concepts;
  • U.S. and allied military capabilities for countering China’s military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region;
  • U.S. and NATO military capabilities for countering Russia’s military capabilities in Europe;
  • capabilities for conducting so-called high-end conventional warfare (i.e., large-scale, high-intensity, technologically sophisticated warfare) against countries such as China and Russia;
  • maintaining U.S. technological superiority in conventional weapons;
  • innovation and speed of weapon system development and deployment;
  • mobilization capabilities for an extended-length large-scale conflict against an adversary such as China or Russia;
  • supply chain security, meaning awareness and minimization of reliance in U.S. military systems on components, subcomponents, materials, and software from Russia and China; and
  • capabilities for countering so-called hybrid warfare and gray-zone tactics employed by countries such as Russia and China.

The issue for Congress is how U.S. defense funding levels, strategy, plans, and programs should respond to the shift in the international environment from the post-Cold War era to the era of renewed great power competition. Congress’s decisions on these issues could have significant or even profound implications for U.S. defense capabilities and funding requirements.

Download the document here.

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