National Security

Top General: US Military Edge Is ‘Eroding’

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The U.S. military’s competitive edge is “eroding” thanks to nearly 16 years of war and uncertain defense spending, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford warned both the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services that the U.S. could lose its qualitative and competitive military edge. Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis briefed the committees Monday and Tuesday, but the message was clear — the U.S. needs a stable defense budget to keep its dominant military status.

“The competitive advantage the United States has enjoyed is eroding,” Dunford told the House committee Monday evening. He reiterated this point during his Senate testimony, noting “it is eroding now.”

Much of the military’s loss is due to the “extraordinarily high level of operational tempo,” which has put a significant burden on U.S. forces. Dunford noted that a great deal of defense spending goes to ensuring near term readiness instead of improvements and upgrades.

Continuing resolutions on defense spending instead of stable, fiscal year budgets have had a negative effect on maintaining the military’s edge, according to both Mattis and Dunford. Both House and Senate members and the witnesses agreed that the U.S. must end sequestration and repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Dunford also warned that U.S. adversaries are developing military capabilities with the sole purpose of limiting U.S. ability to project power abroad.

The combination of irregular spending and adversarial advances could occur within just a “few years,” added Dunford.

“We would be challenged in projecting power right now,” he said.

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