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US military chief reveals first Chinese target if war breaks out

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 3, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jennifer E. Reyes)
July 19, 2022

If the U.S. and China ever go to war, the U.S. will go after China’s command and control first, the commandant of the Marine Corps revealed last week.

During an event called “Defense Disruptors Series: A Conversation with General David Berger” at the Hudson Institute, Gen. Berger said “to weaken that animal over there” — referring to communist China — the U.S. would “go after command and control.”

“We should assume that on both sides, we’re going to try to go after soft spots early on. I think that’s what you’re hinting at. Both logistics and command and control. If you were studying the U.S. for the past 20 years, where do you … How can I start to weaken that animal over there? You would go after command and control because you would think they rely on it so much that if I can just interdict that, if I can hurt their command and control, we can start to have a more of a fair fight,” Gen. Berger said, according to a transcript of the discussion.

“So I think we should assume that they’re going to go after our command and control and they’re going to go after our logistics, if there were a confrontation or they’re going to make it clear to us, they could, just say it another way, during the pre-conflict and we’re going to do the same,” he continued. “We’re going to communicate, “We can do A, B and C and that A, B and C isn’t going to be all of it.”

Berger said the U.S. military should be working on resilience in the face of damaged communications, adding that the Marine Corps’ primary focus is not gear – it’s people.   

“How do we train? How do we become comfortable with small unit leaders making decisions at speed with very limited connectivity. We had a discussion earlier, I think younger leaders will be happy with that. The senior leaders will be uncomfortable with that,” he said, adding, “They’ll make decisions at speed and this is a natural place for the Marine Corps to be. We’re very comfortable giving … Empowering junior leaders and training them to get to there.”

The commandant also asserted that the military has to “up our game, training wise.”

“When I talk about maturity of the force, I’m not talking about an age. I’m talking about how do we get … Today, what a Staff Sergeant has in terms of experience, how do we get that two years earlier? Part of it is technology. It’s reps, it’s sets, it’s over and over, building into their mind what it normally would take seven years to get, how do I get there in five?”

“So maturity to me is the ability to make decisions based on a volume of experience so how do we get to the experience faster in a shorter period of time? How do we get a Sergeant with the same level of experience that today a Staff Sergeant has? How do we do that? That’s what’s going to get us that in a broken connectivity, fractured environment,” he continued. “That’s how you operate at speed without any loss in tempo.”