Defense Review Says Overtaxed US Military At Risk Of Losing Edge Over Russia, China


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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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  • The United States is unprepared to fight both Russia and China at once, and could even lose against just one of them, according to a report from the National Defense Strategy Commission.
  • It claims the U.S. has been too focused on counterinsurgency wars and may be unprepared to wage a conventional conflict.
  • U.S. defense spending has increased during the Trump administration.

Russia and China are now threats that could win a war against the United States, mostly because calls for new defense spending have been ignored, according to a Wednesday report from the National Defense Strategy Commission.

The NDSC is an independent and bipartisan commission tasked with evaluating America’s military standing. Its report claims the U.S. military is not prepared to wage two wars at once against China and Russia should the situation arise, and could even lose a war against just one of the countries, the Washington Post reported. The report cites a lack of defense spending, despite the total defense budget rising from $823 billion in 2017 to $951 billion in 2019 and an anticipated $988 billion in 2020.

“U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe,” the report said.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the NDSC board are sending warning signs, however.

“There is a strong fear of complacency, that people have become so used to the United States achieving what it wants in the world, to include militarily, that it isn’t heeding the warning signs,” Kathleen Hicks, a former top Pentagon official during the Obama administration and one of the commissioners, told WaPo. “It’s the flashing red that we are trying to relay.”

Carrier Strike Groups transit in formation during a photo exercise Seaman Stephen W. Rowe/ REUTERS

Carrier Strike Groups transit in formation during a photo exercise. (Seaman Stephen W. Rowe/ REUTERS)

The U.S. Department of Defense concurs with the report, calling it a “stark reminder” of the growing power of global rivals and the subsequent fading of U.S. supremacy.

“The department will carefully consider each of the recommendations put forward by the commission as part of continuing efforts to strengthen our nation’s defense, and looks forward to working with the commission and the Congress to do so,” DOD spokesman Johnny Michael told NBC News. (RELATED: What Defense Secretary James Mattis Told Troops At The Border)

The NDSC recommends the country follow the National Defense Strategy released by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who President Donald Trump has called “sort of a Democrat,” in January. Mattis’s office points out that the U.S. has spent the past two decades waging counterinsurgency campaigns in the Middle East and its tactics and strategies have largely evolved to fit those conflicts, perhaps at the expense of capability to fight a conventional war against near peer nations like Russia and China. The money spent on post-9/11 counterinsurgency wars could have paid off a quarter of the national debt, according to a report Wednesday from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Russia and China have “learned from what we’ve done. They’ve learned from our success. And while we’ve been off doing a different kind of warfare, they’ve been prepared for a kind of warfare at the high end that we really haven’t engaged in for a very long time,” said Eric Edelman, a top Pentagon official during George W. Bush’s presidential administration, according to WaPo.

“The costs of failing to meet America’s crisis of national defense and national security will not be measured in abstract concepts like ‘international stability’ and ‘global order,'” the report concluded. “They will be measured in American lives, American treasure, and American security and prosperity lost. It will be a tragedy — of unforeseeable but perhaps tremendous magnitude — if the United States allows its national interests and national security to be compromised through an unwillingness or inability to make hard choices and necessary investments. That tragedy will be all the more regrettable because it is within our power to avoid it.”

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