SecDef Austin Tells the Pentagon to Start Acting Like China Is Top Priority

The Pentagon is implementing recommendations from a task force review to better prioritize China, which it views as the top 'pacing challenge'

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the Pentagon on Wednesday to start acting like China is the top “threat” facing the US military instead of just talking about it.

The order was given after the Pentagon wrapped up a 100-day review of its China policy that was conducted by a task force led by Ely Ratner, a China hawk who came from the interventionist Center for a New American Security think tank. Ratner was appointed as a special advisor to Austin to appease China hawks who believed the former military commander did not have enough experience concerning Asia.

A senior military official told Defense One that the task force found what it called a “say-do-gap” between what the Pentagon is saying about China and the action it is taking. Austin directed the Pentagon to take initiatives recommended by Ratner’s task force.

The Pentagon said in a statement: “Based on final recommendations submitted by the DoD China Task Force, Secretary Austin issued a directive today initiating several major Department-wide efforts to better address the security challenges posed by China as the United States’ number one pacing challenge.”

Most of the initiatives recommended by the task force are being kept classified. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the recommendations include “plans to better include China as a focus area inside the workforce, and particularly in the world of training and education, and how much are we really looking at making sure we have a workforce, or a part of the workforce, that can help us better focus on China.” Kirby said the findings of the China task force will influence the global posture review that is still ongoing.

According to a report from Military Times, as a result of the task force, Austin ordered China to become the priority for military and civilian education. A senior military official said the change in education will be made “to align the department with the prioritization of China.”

The focus on China is also seen in the Pentagon’s $715 billion budget request for the 2022 fiscal year. The budget asks for over $112 billion for the research of advanced weapons technology, which US military officials see as vital to compete with Beijing. In a statement on the budget, Austin said it “provides us the mix of capabilities we need most and stays true to our focus on the pacing challenge from the People’s Republic of China.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.