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Pentagon lags behind China, Russia in military modernization, House panel reports

Raytheon AIM-9X air-to-air missiles (US Navy/Released)
October 05, 2020

The Pentagon is reportedly sticking to aging weapons systems despite traditional battlefields facing irrelevancy in the era of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space and biotechnology.

In a report released by a bipartisan House panel called the “Future of Defense Task Force,” the Pentagon is moving slowly when it comes to adopting new technologies, falling behind the advancements of both China and Russia.

The report stated that while China is the most significant economic and national security threat to the United States long term, Russia is the most immediate threat – and both are beating the U.S. in this modern arms race.

“The United States emerged from the Cold War with a substantial economic and military lead over any potential rival. However, these gaps have dramatically narrowed,” the report stated. “China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy, and despite historic defense budgets, the United States has failed to keep pace with China’s and Russia’s military modernization.”

Many on the panel concluded that the Pentagon is ostensibly dragging its feet out of fear of having to close factories or bases, thereby endangering military jobs in congressional districts, the New York Times reported, adding that the Defense Department needs to focus on the future.

“At home, America faces historic levels of social and political division that makes consensus around budgets, priorities, and realistic evaluation of our national security threats particularly difficult,” the report stated. “All this demands a re-examination of the Department of Defense’s strategy to ensure that its budgetary and policy priorities…are focused on the needs of the future and not on the political and military-industrial loyalties of the past.”

In order to win the artificial intelligence race, the task force called for the United States to use the Manhattan Project as a guide to become world leaders in the invention and deployment of AI.

“We are totally out of time, and here is a bipartisan group – in this environment – saying that this is a race we have to win and that we are currently losing,” said Democrat Representative Seth Moulton, a former Marine and co-chairman of the task force. “There is misalignment of priorities, and diminishing time to make dramatic changes.”

Officials at the Pentagon have reportedly worked on finding solutions that won’t lead to workers and military contractors losing their jobs, but the task force believes the efforts aren’t enough and that they’re hindering the military’s ability to use the private sector.

“The Pentagon’s outreach in places like Boston, Silicon Valley, and Austin has been successful, but more needs to be done in these areas and around the country,” the report stated. “There are innovative companies, universities, and thought leaders throughout the United States that would welcome the opportunity to work with the DOD. But the Pentagon has so far only been able to tap into a fraction of the innovation being developed in the United States.”