NAVAL STATION PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii—In his first major speech as Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin on Friday called for developing a “new vision” for American defense in the face of emerging cyber and space threats and the prospect of fighting bigger wars.
Reflecting President Joe Biden’s promise to put diplomacy first in dealing with foreign policy problems, Austin said the military should provide leverage that diplomats can use to prevent conflict.
“U.S. military isn’t meant to stand apart, but to buttress U.S. diplomacy and advance a foreign policy that employs all of our instruments of national power,” Austin said.
He chose to spell out his ideas at Pearl Harbor, at the center of U.S. military power in the Indo-Pacific region, reflecting U.S. concerns that the Chinese communist regime’s rapid military modernization and growing aggression make it a powerful adversary. Notably, Austin in his speech did not explicitly mention China or North Korea.
In his first four-plus months as defense secretary, Austin has focused less on big policy pronouncements and more on immediate issues like the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and internal issues like extremism in the military, as well as launching broad reviews of defense strategy.
Speaking with the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial in the background, Austin cautioned that the U.S. military cannot be satisfied with believing it is the strongest and most capability military in the world today—“not at a time when our potential adversaries are very deliberately working to blunt our edge.” He appeared to be referring to the Chinese regime, which other officials say has accelerated its military modernization and sped up its construction of a wide range of sophisticated weaponry while the United States was focused for two decades on combatting terrorist groups like al-Qaida in Afghanistan and, more recently, ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
By Robert Burns