Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall is intensifying efforts to shift the military’s focus from post-9/11 combat operations to addressing the growing challenge posed by China. He has set a January deadline to develop a new strategy for potential conflict with China. In a recent speech at the 2023 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Kendall emphasized the need to deter a war with China and be prepared to win if necessary. He stressed that China represents the most significant threat to the United States.
In the past few years, many military experts have urged the Pentagon to redirect its attention from COVID-19 regulations and internal policies to focus more on countering China’s influence. Kendall’s recent memo and speech have been seen as significant steps in this direction.
For years, concerns have been mounting that China is surpassing the United States in terms of weapons development and military capabilities. Even when the Space Force was established during the tenure of former President Donald Trump, there were fears that the U.S. was neglecting China’s efforts to expand into space.
Kendall’s memo, dated September 5th, clearly identifies China as America’s top threat. He notes that China has been working towards building a force capable of conducting aggressive actions in the Western Pacific, even in the face of U.S. intervention. China has not only focused on strengthening its regional conventional forces but has also significantly expanded its nuclear and military space capabilities. Kendall emphasizes that maintaining deterrence against China requires proactive measures and cannot be achieved by maintaining the status quo.
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He points out that the military has been optimized for post-9/11 conflicts and the demands of that era, which are not aligned with the nation’s current need for strategic competition. Kendall has initiated a comprehensive review aimed at reevaluating how the Air Force and Space Force are organized, trained, and equipped. This review, expected to conclude by January 2024, will lay the groundwork for implementing necessary changes.
Kendall acknowledges that change can be challenging, but the consequences of not adapting to the evolving threat are unacceptable. He underlines that the primary mission of the Air Force and Space Force is to ensure preparedness for potential great power conflicts, even though no one wishes for such conflicts. He emphasizes the need to be ready at all times to address any emerging challenges.
In summary, Secretary Frank Kendall is leading a crucial effort to refocus the U.S. military’s attention on countering the growing threat posed by China. He recognizes the need for a concrete plan to address this challenge and is committed to making the necessary changes to ensure readiness for potential great power conflicts. The January deadline marks a significant milestone in this transformation process, underscoring the urgency of the situation and the importance of being prepared for any eventuality.