March 27, 2014

We're Losing Our Military Edge Over China. Here's How to Get It Back.

By Elbridge Colby

Journalist(s) Elbridge Colby, J. Randy Forbes

A flurry of recent statements by senior Defense Department officials has thrown a bright but cold light on a reality that Washington has yet to grapple with: that America’s edge in military technology and the balance of military power in the Asia-Pacific writ large is under serious and growing pressure from China’s military-modernization efforts. Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command, observed at a conference in January that “our historic dominance...is diminishing” in the Pacific. Meanwhile, Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, has been even more pointed, telling the House Armed Services Committee that, when it comes to “technological superiority, the Department of Defense is being challenged in ways that I have not seen for decades, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.” And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempseysoberly warned in his “Chairman’s Assessment” of the QDR that in the coming decade, he expects “the risk of interstate conflict in Asia to rise, the vulnerability of our platforms and basing to increase, [and] our technology edge to erode…Nearly any future conflict will occur on a much faster pace and on a more technically challenging battlefield.” And this, he notes, is the good case—if the United States does not spend its defense resources more wisely and make the “dramatic changes” required to upgrade our defense posture, the situation will likely be considerably worse.

Some might criticize these officials for their candor. We believe Admiral Locklear, Under Secretary Kendall, and General Dempsey should be commended for sounding the alarm because they are right that the military balance in the Asia-Pacific—and especially our edge in technology and its exploitation, the true source of our military advantage in recent decades—is eroding.

Please visit The National Interest to read the full article. 

  • Elbridge Colby