Mattis Unveils New US National Defense Strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced the new National Defense Strategy in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Jan. 19, 2018

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Washington, DC – The United States announced a new National Defense Strategy which would restore America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the US and its allies, or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II. The strategy aims to maintain a balance of power in the fast-changing Indo-Pacific region. 

The first new strategy in a decade was recently unveiled by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Addressing a select audience at the school, Mattis stressed that the strategy is not merely a defense strategy, but an American strategy. It is based on the National Security Strategy, which President Donald J. Trump announced on December 18, 2017.

“We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models pursuing veto authority over other nation’s economic, diplomatic, and security decisions,” he said.

Colby Addresses Journalists 

Earlier, Elbridge A. Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, briefed Pentagon journalists citing from the unclassified 14-page summary of the strategy in advance of Secretary Mattis unveiling the policy. Colby said “this is not a strategy of confrontation, but it is strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.”

The strategy states that the primary challenge facing the Defense Department and the joint force is “the erosion of US military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation,” Colby explained.

The strategy aims at thwarting Chinese and Russian aggression and use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm US interests, and specifically focuses on three key theaters: Europe, the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East, Colby said.

While Russia and China are the main US adversaries in this strategy, DoD must address North Korea, Iran and the threat posed by terrorism, Colby noted, and he said this strategy does that. “The strategy will have significant implications for how the department shapes the force, develops the force, postures the force, uses the force,” he said.

The strategy looks to build a more lethal and agile force, Colby said. It shifts away from the post-Desert Storm model, and DoD seeks to modernize key capabilities and innovate using new technologies and operational concepts to maintain dominance across all domains, he explained.

The strategy will build on America’s unequalled alliance and partnership constellation and seek new partners for the future, he added.

Finally, the strategy seeks to reform DoD to create a culture that “delivers cost-effective performance at the speed of relevance,” Colby said. “The joint force should be ready to compete, to deter and — if necessary — to win against any adversary,” Colby concluded.

General Dunford

The Pentagon Library is full of documents that were announced with great fanfare, but ultimately were ignored or discarded. Top brass at the Pentagon, however, argue that the National Defense Strategy will not be one of those.

“I think if anybody knows Secretary Mattis or looks at his history, he’s not inclined to publish documents or give guidance that he doesn’t actually intend to execute,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a recent interview in Brussels. “I can assure you that one of the things that gives me confidence the National Defense Strategy will affect our behavior is Secretary Mattis’ ownership of the National Defense Strategy, and his commitment to actually lead the US military in a direction that is supportive of that National Defense Strategy.”

“I have a high degree of confidence that the secretary’s going to drive implementation of the NDS,” Dunford said. “And I’m equally committed, as are all the combatant commanders and the service chiefs, to supporting the secretary in execution of the NDS.”

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