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DOD Comptroller: Overmatch Against China, Russia Critical

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The fiscal year 2020 defense budget request is a “strategy-driven budget,” the Defense Department’s comptroller said yesterday during a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee.

The budget fully supports the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which points to the “erosion of our competitive edge against China and Russia continues to be DOD’s central problem,” said David L. Norquist, who is also performing the duties of deputy defense secretary.

“To preserve peace, we must prepare for the high-end fight against near-peer competitors,” he said.

While counterterrorism will continue as a core challenge, future conflicts with other nations will likely be radically different than wars fought since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gradual Erosion of Overmatch

After the first Gulf War, the U.S. reduced its defense investments and restructured its military around the fight against violent extremists. At the same time, China and Russia were studying the capabilities that gave the U.S. overmatch during Operation Desert Storm. They then built their militaries to counter U.S. capabilities, “dramatically reducing our advantage,” he said.

For example, he said, in recent years China has:

— Fielded its first aircraft carrier

— Demonstrated its ability to shoot down satellites

— Continued to field short-, medium- and long-range missiles

— Successfully tested hypersonic glide vehicles

— Modernized and expanded its nuclear capabilities

In the future, it is most likely that attacks will be waged in cyberspace and space as well as on land, sea and in the air, Norquist said.

These multidimensional attacks will not just be waged against U.S. troops; they will also be aimed at critical infrastructure in the homeland, he said.

“To deter these future conflicts, we need a military capable of winning them,” he said, adding that the budget request provides the funding needed to win future high-end conflicts.

Summary of the Budget

This budget that supports the NDS increases investment in critical areas, he said, listing them:

— Sustaining the force and building on readiness gains

— Modernizing capabilities in the air, maritime and land domains

— Modernizing all three legs of the nuclear triad: submarines, missiles and bombers

— Developing the two newest domains, space and cyberwarfare

— Accelerating innovation and disruptive technologies in areas like artificial intelligence, hypersonics, autonomy and directed energy

On the last point, Norquist said it’s the largest research, development, test and evaluation budget in 70 years.

He also noted that the budget supports a 3.1% military pay raise — the largest in a decade — and an increase in end strength by roughly 7,700 service members.

Budget Request in Perspective

Defense spending is “at a record low” of 3.1% of the U.S. gross domestic product, down from 4.5% in 2010, he said, and, at 15% of the federal budget, it is down from 21% in 2007.

“The stakes are clear,” Norquist said. “If we want peace, our adversaries need to know there’s no path to victory through fighting us. Military superiority is not a birthright. Each generation must actively sustain it.”

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