In a speech on Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the next “major war” the US military fights will look “very different” from recent conflicts.
Austin made the comments at a change of command ceremony for US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), which oversees US military operations to confront China in the region. While China was not mentioned in Austin’s speech, the Pentagon recently cited Beijing as the top “threat” facing the US to justify the $715 billion budget it is requesting for 2022.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlined the US military’s shift in focus away from counterterrorism in the Middle East towards so-called “great power competition” with Russia and China. Austin echoed in his speech, calling his time as the head of US Central Command as his service in the “old wars.”
“I’m a civilian now, but I’ve spent most of the past two decades executing the last of the old wars,” he said. “But the way we’ll fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones.”
Austin said future conflicts will be different due to advances in technology. “Galloping advances in technology mean changes in the work we do to keep the United States secure across all five domains of potential conflict — not just air, land, and sea but also space and cyberspace,” he said.
Likely referring to Russia and China, Austin said, “potential adversaries are very deliberately working to blunt our edge.” He said this means the US must invest in “cutting-edge capabilities” of “all domains,” including artificial intelligence.
INDOPACOM has its hands out to Congress for an additional $27 billion in funding over the next five years. The command wants to build an air-defense system for the US base in Guam and position a network of long-range missiles near China’s coast, among other things.
Adm. Chris Aquilino is the new commander of INDOPACOM, replacing Adm. Phillip Davidson. During Senate confirmation hearings in March, he hyped the threat of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan to justify the increased budget for his new command.