The new National Defense Strategy is a good fit for the times, emphasizing the return of great power rivalry, yet still addressing other threats that abound in the world today, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said. He released the strategy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, a division of the Johns Hopkins University based in Washington Jan. 19.
Mattis emphasized that the strategy is not merely a defense strategy, but an American strategy. The strategy — the first new strategy in a decade — is based on the National Security Strategy, the President announced in December.
“Today, America's military reclaims an era of strategic purpose and we're alert to the realities of a changing world and attentive to the need to protect our values and the countries that stand with us,” the secretary said. “America's military protects our way of life and I want to point out it also protects a realm of ideas. It's not just about protecting geography. This is a defense strategy that will guide our efforts in all realms.”
Threats have changed since the last strategy. There is increasing global volatility and uncertainty with challenges from Russia and China coming to the fore. “Though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” the secretary said.
The strategy will provide the American people the military required “to protect our way of life, stand with our allies and live up to our responsibility to pass intact to the next generation those freedoms that all of us enjoy here today,” Mattis said.
The strategy expands the U.S. military’s competitive space, prioritizes preparedness for war, provides clear direction for significant change at the speed of relevance and builds a more lethal force to compete strategically.
In formulating the strategy, officials had to make tough choices, “and we made them based upon a fundamental precept, namely that America can afford survival,” Mattis said.
“We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia are from each other, nations that do seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models, pursuing veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” he said.
The threat from rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran persist. And even though ISIS’s physical caliphate is no more, the group — and other extremist organizations — continues to sow hatred.
“In this time of change, our military is still strong, yet our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, and it is continuing to erode,” the secretary said.
The National Defense Strategy summary provides an overview of the strategic environment, DoD objectives and the strategic approach to achieve them, including three lines of effort:
- Build a more lethal force.
- Strengthen alliances and attract new partners.
- Reform the DoD for greater performance and affordability.
The National Defense Strategy is classified but an unclassified summary is available here.