The United States must maintain overmatch — be stronger, better armed, or more skillful than its adversaries, the Army secretary said at the Brooking Institution in Washington.
Ryan D. McCarthy addressed Indo-Pacific region Army strategy at the nonprofit public policy organization today.
“Our modernization focus — how we fight, what we fight with and who we are — is in part driven by new challenges and potential adversaries,” he said.
The secretary said the Army remains ironclad in its priorities of readiness, modernization and reform, and the Army budget and investments are aligned with its priorities.
“In this era of great-power competition, China will emerge as America’s strategic threat,” McCarthy said. “Over 60% of the world’s [gross domestic product] flows through the Strait of Malacca, and China is militarizing the global commons.”
He noted that having the Army in that region of the world with modernized weaponry “changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries.”
Having the Army in the region also strengthens America’s position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors and compete economically, he added.
The Army has traditionally focused its efforts toward Europe, given that Russia is a land-based threat, the secretary noted. “Seven decades of partnership in Europe has set the conditions for strong militaries. And strong partners that are capable of countering threats from abroad,” he added.
While efforts continue with U.S. allies and partners in Europe, the Army is much more than tanks and Bradleys, McCarthy said.
“We serve as the operational command and control, advise and assist, long-range precision fighters and the logistical backbone of our current and future military operations,” he said, adding the Army, in essence, is engaging in warfare by other means.
It’s been evident since World War II that the Army would need to operate on two fronts: in Europe and the Pacific. It’s the Army on the ground, partnered with militaries, that has ensured continuous presence and shared equipment will enable military strength to overcome economic strangleholds, promote good global commons and offer an alternative to the adversary’s narrative, he noted.
In the new competition space, U.S. forces will require a change in behavior and patience, the secretary said.
“We must be engaged in constant competition, versus the episodic engagement strategy,” he said.
The military has had a boxer’s mentality to conflict — go in, use fast hands and deliver a devastating punch in the first round that’s fast, lethal and gone, McCarthy said.
“Our approach to competition with potential adversaries, however, such as Russia [and] China will feel more like a soccer match than one round in the ring,” he emphasized.
“Endurance, strong partnerships and patience will be a necessary mix. Presence does not have to lead to conflict. If we wait until there’s a conflict, we’re already too late,” he said.
McCarthy said that now, during the “compete phase,” the Army is refining its approach to improve U.S. strategic readiness.
“We’ll accomplish readiness through strengthening our partnerships and advising and assisting with our regionally aligned security force assistance brigades, which will deploy in fiscal year 2021,” he said.
McCarthy added that the military’s multidomain task forces with deployments in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 will build partnerships.
The Army seeks to increase foreign military sales, international military education and training and more repetitions from multinational exercises, shared equipment, shared training, and shared understanding as the end state, he noted.
“The Army is reinvigorating our presence and disposition in the Pacific,” the secretary said. “History has shown the Army has always had a role in the Pacific.”