In a major speech given on Friday, 30 April in connection with the INDOPACOM Change of Command ceremony — from Admiral Philip Davidson to Admiral Chris Aquilino — during his first foreign travel, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III celebrated the talents and service of the Commanders, but also provided insight into what he views as the core precepts of U.S. national security policy under the Biden Administration
Our five takeaways from his remarks:
(1) Deterrence remains at the core of national security policy.
The U.S. is “still the best in the business” of defense and that U.S. national security will continue to depend on deterring enemy action. “Now, the cornerstone of America’s defense is still deterrence, ensuring that our adversaries understand the folly of outright conflict.” “So what we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts, and capabilities—all woven together in a networked way that is so credible, flexible, and formidable that it will give any adversary pause. We need to create advantages for us and dilemmas for them.”
(2) Achieving “integrated deterrence” will require that military power not stand apart, but rather buttress diplomacy and “advance a foreign policy that employs all instruments of our national power. As the President of the United States has made clear, diplomacy must come first, and the use of force must be a very last resort.”
(3) U.S. allies and partners are a force multiplier for America and the Biden Administration places great value on them.
“Integrated deterrence rests on integrated networks among our capabilities, our operations, and our allies. So we’ll be working even more closely with our friends in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere – particularly in Europe – to strengthen a rules-based international order that favors the advance of freedom. Our allies, as I’ve said, are a force multiplier and a strategic advantage that none of our competitors can match. They are the foundation of our shared security, and I can tell you that this Department never takes them for granted.”
(4) Technology acceleration means changes to how U.S. forces fight and win.
“The way we’ll fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones.” “Technology is accelerating and success in future conflict will require that US military leaders harness technology and computing power “to understand faster, decide faster, and act faster.” “This is about real-world, real-time advantages—about fully grasping a situation moving at the speed of war.”
(5) The realms of conflict have expanded and the U.S. must secure advantages in space and cyber.
Fights of the future will require new capacities and operational flexibility – “Galloping advances in technology mean changes in the work we do to keep the United States secure across all five domains of potential conflict—not just air, land, and sea but also space and cyberspace.” “All of [these realms] must be mastered to ensure our security in the 21st century.”