The United States will be shifting its approach to defense in the coming year, and the new budget will move from a focus on fighting terrorists to one that prepares for war between major powers.
“We will be prepared for a high-end enemy,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in remarks on the budget at the Economic Club of Washington on Feb. 2, according to an official transcript.
Carter said the United States must demonstrate in its budget, plans, capabilities, and actions that if an adversary starts a war, “we have the capability to win.”
“In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors,” Carter said, noting that they have developed—and continue to develop—advanced weapons “that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas.”
In some cases, he said, “they are developing weapons and ways of wars that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before, they hope, we can respond.”
Carter gave his comments ahead of President Barack Obama’s release of the budget for fiscal year 2017, which will give the Department of Defense (DOD) $582.7 billion.
He said because of hostilities, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and China’s attempts to take the South China Sea, “DOD has elevated their importance in our defense planning and budgeting.”
For more than a decade, the United States was focused on large-scale counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Carter said the DOD had embarked “on a major strategy shift to sustain our lead in full spectrum war fighting.”
While the United States was buried in the War on Terror, however, the rest of the world kept moving—and examples of this have been the emergence of ISIS and Russia’s annexing of Crimea in Ukraine.
“Today’s security environment is dramatically different than the one we’ve been engaged in for the last 25 years and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting,” Carter said.
“To be clear, the U.S. military will fight very differently in coming years than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan or in the rest of the world’s recent memory,” he said.
The new defense budget, Carter said, will take the “long view.” It will take into account current threats, but also focus on threats that are still only in their budding phases. The thinking is that “even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come, 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.”
Resposibilities of the U.S. military also go beyond national defense. Carter noted that the the United States is still “the world’s foremost leader, partner and underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe—as we have been since the end of World War II.”