“Now, it’s up to the Department to get to work,” Austin said after issuing an internal directive to the giant Pentagon bureaucracy.
The directive, the details of which are classified, comes after an evaluation by a task force set up by the new Biden administration in February to study the Defense Department’s strategy toward China.
“The initiatives that I am presenting today are nested within the broader US government approach to China and will help inform the development of the National Defense Strategy that we are working on,” Austin said.
A senior defense official said the task force had identified a “say-do ‘gap between China’s stated prioritization and what we saw in a number of areas related to care and resources and processes.”
“Today’s leadership really tries to ensure that the department lives up to that prioritization,” the official said.
Austin said the directive “will enhance the Department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, strengthen deterrence and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture, and a modernized civilian and military workforce.”
The Pentagon’s operations for the past two decades have focused primarily on dealing with jihadist militants in the Middle East and not with a modern military like China’s.
The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy identified China as a major strategic competitor, but the task force found that not much had been done to address the challenges posed by Beijing.
Currently, the US military seeks to expand its presence in the Pacific at a time when China has been increasingly belligerent with Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.
The United States maintains a significant presence in the Middle East, even as it has begun withdrawing its 2,500 remaining US troops from Afghanistan.
To ensure that his directive is followed, Austin will be personally responsible for the implementation of the classified recommendations of the task force.