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Defense Budget Request Seeks to Reinvigorate U.S. Deterrence Strategy

The president’s fiscal year 2019 defense budget request reinvigorates America’s strategic thinking and capabilities, Defense Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the budget request takes into account the advances both Russia and China have made.

Today, U.S. forces are capable of defending the United States, Hyten told the committee. “The forces under my command are fully ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively should that deterrence fail,” the general said. “We’re ready for all the threats that are out there, and no one – no one – should doubt this. We just have to make sure that future Stratcom commanders will always be able to make that statement.”

Both Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said the current era is complicated and dangerous.

“Today the United States faces an increasingly complex global security environment in which the central challenge to our prosperity and security is the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition by revisionist powers in China and Russia,” Rood said. “While they pose separate challenges with unique attributes, both China and Russia seek to reshape the world order and change territorial borders. Consequently, they pose increasing security threats to us, our allies and our partners.”

Threats Will Change

Both nations are taking a long-term strategy of challenge to the United States, he said, and the United States must answer in the same way. The threats of today will change in the future, he added, and America must be ready to confront them.

While China and Russia are the greatest challenges, it’s not as if the rest of the world is a vast reservoir of peace, Rood noted. “We must also simultaneously strengthen our efforts to deter and counter the clear and present dangers posed by rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran,” he said.

On top of those challenges, the undersecretary told the panel, are the problems caused by violent extremist groups of all stripes.

“The U.S. military remains the strongest in the world,” he said. “However, our advantages are eroding as potential adversaries modernize and build up their conventional and nuclear forces. They now field a broad arsenal of advanced missiles, including variants that can reach the American homeland.”

The United States cannot view the world through rose-colored glasses, Rood said, and America must confront the challenges it faces. The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review reflect “a consistent and pragmatic assessment of the threats and uncertainties we face regarding the future security environment,” he added.

Ensuring Advantages Endure

“Our task at the Defense Department is to ensure that the U.S. military advantages endure, and in combination with other elements of national power, that we are fully able to meet the increasing challenges to our national security,” the undersecretary said.

U.S. nuclear weapons will continue to play a critical role in deterring nuclear attack and preventing large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states for the foreseeable future, Rood said, adding that they are approaching the end of their useful lives and America must recapitalize the capabilities.

The fiscal 2019 budget begins this process he told the committee. “The 2019 budget request funds all critical Defense Department modernization requirements, helping to ensure that modern replacements will be available before the nation’s legacy systems reach the end of their extended service lives,” Rood said. This is $24 billion, which includes $11 billion for nuclear force sustainment and operations, $7 billion for recapitalization programs, he explained.

Nuclear forces are the ultimate guarantor of U.S. and allied security, Hyten said.

“Our forces and capabilities underpin and enable all other joint force operations,” he said. “We’re a global warfighting command. The strength of the command is its people. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and civilians of the enterprise have the most important mission in our entire department. Their hard work and dedication ensures our nation’s strategic capabilities remain safe, secure, reliable and ready, and sustained congressional support will ensure we remain ready, agile and effective for deterring strategic attack, ensuring our allies and partners today and in the future.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @Garamone)