Milley became the 20th chairman Sept. 30, succeeding Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford.
He has had a baptism by fire. Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Russia, Japan and more has kept him busy during his time in the new job.
Still, the strategy will guide his decisions and the military advice that he gives to the president, vice president, defense secretary and secretary of state.
The goal of the strategy is to protect and sustain American ideals. "American values have made us strong for two-and-a-half centuries, and we will never waver in our commitment to the U.S. Constitution," the general said. "Our goal should be to sustain great power peace that has existed since World War II, and deal firmly with all those who might challenge us."
With that as a base, the military must improve joint warfighting readiness. "We must be ready 24/7 — that is our contract with the American people," Milley said. "We will also continue to work closely with our allies and partners to improve our collective security and protect our common interests."
Finally, Milley must ensure the force of the future has the capabilities and capacities to protect Americans, U.S. allies and U.S. interests around the world. "We will modernize our military through innovative concept development, advanced technology and new capabilities," he said.
Part and parcel of this is having leaders who understand the joint environment and how the land, sea, air, cyber and space domains affect that environment. Milley said he will work to ensure tomorrow's joint leaders have the training and experience needed to succeed.
The chairman also emphasizes the role of service members and their families. He stressed DOD must keep faith with military personnel and their families.
Internationally, the chairman's horizon is dominated by the return of great power competition. China and Russia are flexing their muscles economically, politically, diplomatically and in the military sphere. All this is tied together in hybrid conflict. China and Russia want to enhance their regional and global prestige, the chairman said. They will use this whole-of-government coercion to force a revision of the international order. "Authoritarian actors are testing the limits of the international system and seeking regional dominance while challenging international norms and undermining U.S. interest," he said.
The chairman said that long term, China is the only existential threat to the United States. Russia, with its nuclear arsenal, is the existential threat today.
The international order the United States championed since the end of WWII has created an atmosphere where all nations may prosper, he said. This includes the nations involved in the great power competition. The United States cannot allow China and Russia to eclipse the United States. "We must maintain peace through strength," Milley said.
Added to this great power competition are other threats — North Korea, Iran and extremist groups.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in a unique position to view the whole world. Combatant commanders look at their specific areas. Service chiefs look at the "man, train and equip" aspects of the military.
With his breadth of view, the chairman is now the global integrator for the joint force. It is a way "for the U.S. military to have a voice in strategic decision-making," Milley said.
He wants to cement the global integration aspect into globally integrated exercises and war games. "We have to consider the overall strategy for the two-plus-three and give a top-down prioritization and allocation of resources against our strategic priorities with bottom-up refinement from the combatant commanders," he said. "It's my job to provide advice on the tough calls — giving resources in a global context at the speed of relevance."
Since taking his position, Milley has been in constant contact with U.S. allies and partners around the world and visited the Indo-Pacific region to confer with Japanese and South Korean defense leaders. "It is a dangerous world, and it is better with friends," the chairman said.
The system of alliances and partners the United States maintains is the font of America's asymmetric advantage. "The strength of the United States is our network of allies and partners that we have," the general said. "That's why the U.S. can deal with any of the challenges we have in the world. I am very confident of our ability to deal with the challenges because of our network of allies and partners."