Report to Congress on Great Power Competition and National Defense

October 1, 2020 9:13 AM - Updated: October 6, 2020 11:04 AM

The following is the Sept. 30, 2020 report, Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

From the report

The post-Cold War era of international relations—which began in the early 1990s and is sometimes referred to as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power)—showed initial signs of fading in 2006-2008, and by 2014 had given way 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 renewal of great power competition was acknowledged alongside other considerations in the Obama Administration’s June 2015 National Military Strategy, and was placed at the center of the Trump Administration’s December 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and January 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). The December 2017 NSS and January 2018 NDS 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. Department of Defense (DOD) officials have subsequently identified countering China’s military capabilities as DOD’s top priority.

The renewal of great power competition has profoundly changed the conversation about U.S. defense issues from what it was during the post-Cold War era: Counterterrorist operations and U.S. military operations in the Middle East—which had moved to the center of discussions of U.S. defense issues following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and which continue to be conducted—are now a less-dominant element in the conversation, and the conversation now features a new or renewed emphasis on the following, all of which relate to China and/or Russia:

  • grand strategy and the geopolitics of great power competition as a starting point for discussing U.S. defense issues;
  • organizational changes within DOD;
  • nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence;
  • the global allocation of U.S. military force deployments;
  • U.S. and allied military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region;
  • U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe;
  • new U.S. military service operational concepts;
  • capabilities for conducting so-called high-end conventional warfare;
  • maintaining U.S. superiority in conventional weapon technologies;
  • innovation and speed of U.S. weapon system development and deployment;
  • mobilization capabilities for an extended-length large-scale conflict;
  • supply chain security, meaning awareness and minimization of reliance in U.S. military systems on foreign components, subcomponents, materials, and software; and
  • capabilities for countering so-called hybrid warfare and gray-zone tactics.

The issue for Congress is how U.S. defense planning should respond to renewed great power competition, and whether to approve, reject, or modify the Trump Administration’s proposed defense funding levels, strategy, plans, and programs for addressing renewed great power competition. Congress’s decisions on these issues could have significant implications for U.S. defense capabilities and funding requirements.

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