On Monday, President Biden’s new Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made it crystal clear that China is his main focus during a speech at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference. According to an Air Force press release, Kendall mentioned China 27 times in his remarks compared to a single mention of Russia.
“So what are my intentions now that I have this job? At a breakfast on Capitol Hill shortly after I was sworn in, I was asked by Sen. Jon Tester what my priorities were. My answer was that I had three; China, China, and China,” Kendall said.
Kendall, who assumed office on August 28th, said China is a threat to Washington’s global military dominance. “While America is still the dominant military power on the planet today, we are being more effectively challenged militarily than at any other time in our history,” he said.
To counter China, Kendall wants to focus on military modernization. He’s previously said he wants the US to develop weapons that would “scare” China. As part of his modernization plan, Kendall wants to retire older military aircraft and focus on developing new ones.
“We will not succeed against a well-resourced and strategic competitor if we insist on keeping every legacy system we have,” he said. “Our one team cannot win its one fight to deter China or Russia without the resources we need and a willingness to balance risk today to avoid much greater risk in the future.”
Kendall served in the Obama administration from 2011 to 2017 as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. Before that, he worked as the Vice President of Engineering for Raytheon, a company with a keen interest in hyping up the threat of China to justify more military spending. Kendall said since 2010, he’s been “pounding the drum about how serious a threat” China is to Washington’s ability to “project power” in Asia.
Kendall’s view is not unique among military leaders in Washington. During Senate confirmation hearings in July, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro vowed to focus “exclusively” on the so-called “China threat.” The Pentagon has also identified China as the top “pacing threat” facing the US military.