Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is calling for an increase in military spending to counter China and Russia. In two separate speeches on Thursday, Esper said China and Russia had become “near-peer rivals” of the US, and an adequate budget increase must be made to reflect that.
“I would like to see three to five percent annual real growth for the Defense Department to stay ahead of the challenges we face, especially from China,” Esper said. “The department’s vision for readiness is one in which our people are focused on great power competition from day one.”
Esper’s comments reflect the US military’s shift in focus from terrorism to so-called “great power competition,” as outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Since he was appointed Secretary of Defense in 2019, Esper has identified China as the Pentagon’s “number one priority.”
As part of his efforts to counter Beijing, Esper tasked the National Defense University, a Pentagon-funded higher-learning facility, to focus 50 percent of its coursework on China by 2021. The former Raytheon lobbyist said he also tasked the military services to make China’s People’s Liberation Army “the pacing threat in our professional schools, programs and training.”