Indo-Pacific: New Technology, New Challenges

By Tan, Michelle | Army, May 2020 | Go to article overview

Indo-Pacific: New Technology, New Challenges


Tan, Michelle, Army


From an increasingly aggressive China to a volatile North Korea, the Indo-Pacific poses some serious and complex challenges to the U.S. military as it seeks to maintain an edge in the vast region.

The Indo-Pacific is the top priority region for the U.S. military, and the Army and the other services are working hard to strengthen partnerships and build up allies living in the shadow of China and its growing military and economy.

We have an enduring commitment to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific ... however, an increasingly aggressive China continues to undermine regional stability through its coercion of neighboring states, illegitimate maritime claims and predatory economic practices, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the House Armed Services Committee.

The Pentagon s highest priority remains China, Esper said, as the Chinese government continues to use- and misuse-its diplomatic, economic and military strength to attempt to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in its favor, often at the expense of others.

The Chinese military is not yet a peer of the U.S. military, but it s moving in that direction, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, who described China as America s most significant adversary for the next hundred years.

They re not our peer yet, but their objective is to be the military co-equal of the United States and even surpass the United States militarily by midcentury, Milley said during the same hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. They re on trend lines to do that, and that s what this [fiscal 2021] budget is all about, is efforts to mitigate the Chinese from closing the gaps or, in fact, overtaking us in some capabilities.

The focus on China and the Indo-Pacific follows almost 20 years of coun- terinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it comes as the Army and the other services are reorienting themselves for great-power competition and the possibility of a fight against a near-peer adversary.

Much of that focus is trained on China and Russia, two near-peer competitors that have grown and made advances to their militaries while the U.S. was fighting in the Middle East and Central Asia.

As the 2017 National Defense [and] National Security strategies correctly assessed, Russia and China are actively undermining U.S. power, influence and interest, Alina Polyakova, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, told the committee. Since 2017, these activities have become even more pervasive. Most notably, Russian and Chinese military, economic and political cooperation has grown, intensifying challenges to the United States.

Both countries also have increased their investments in new technologies, including artificial intelligence, making them a more complex challenge.

Character of War Changing

While the nature of war is constant, advanced technologies have stressed our industrial age capabilities, concepts and processes, changing the very character of war in a fundamental way, Milley said. Additionally, we are recovering from readiness shortfalls and modernization deferments over about 20 years now of continuous warfare in a decade of budget instability.

The Army, for example, is in the midst of an ambitious and sweeping modernization effort aimed at making sure the service can win on what leaders say will be a bloody, deadly and fast-moving future battlefield.

We want to win the next war. We've got to get ready for that, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

The Indo-Pacific is the most populous, dynamic and consequential region in the world, according to Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

The report, created by the Center for a New American Security as mandated in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, says maintaining a favorable balance of power will be essential to achieving America s longterm goals in the region. …

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