The United States military has “lost its edge” and could potentially lose a war against Russia or China, a report by a bipartisan panel established by Congress says.
The report by the National Defense Strategy Commission on November 14 said U.S. military superiority has “eroded to a dangerous degree” and could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict.”
“It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” it said, adding that new threats were also being realized as Iran and North Korea bolster their capabilities.
The commission was established by Congress in 2017 to evaluate the National Defense Strategy of the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump. It consists of 12 former top Republican and Democratic officials.
Congressional reports and other studies often warn of difficulties and deficiencies faced by the U.S. military, but the latest report could raise concerns in Washington given its bipartisan nature and dire conclusions.
Trump has ordered a major revamp to the U.S. military and has proposed billions of dollars in additional funds to aid an expansion that he says is designed to compete with Russia and China.
The commission said it agreed with the aims of the strategy, but it warned that Washington was not investing or moving quickly enough to put the policy into effect, which could lead to a national emergency.
“The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously,” the report said.
It warned that as U.S. policy was lagging, “authoritarian competitors, especially China and Russia," were attempting to press their influence in their regions and developing the resources to project military power globally."
It said threats posed by Iran and North Korea are intensifying as they develop "more advanced weapons and creatively employ asymmetric tactics.”
The report warned that a sense of “complacency” is undermining efforts to maintain the U.S. military’s long-held dominant position in the world.
“People have become so used to the United States achieving what it wants in the world, to include militarily, that it isn’t heeding the warning signs,” said Kathleen H. Hicks, one of the commissioners.
“It’s the flashing red that we are trying to relay,” added Hicks, a former top Pentagon official during the administration of President Barack Obama.
The panel said that despite an annual budget of some $716 billion -- at least 10 times that of Russia and four times the size of China’s -- U.S. defense development is under-resourced considering today’s threats.
The commission provided a list of 32 recommendations and called on the Pentagon to clearly set out how it intends to defeat a major power in war.
Among the conclusions, it urged the Navy to expand its submarine fleet and sealift forces to compete with Russia and China.
It said the Air Force should introduce more stealth long-range fighters and bombers. It said the Army should add more armor, long-range precision missiles, and air-defense and logistical forces.
The report also called for the United States to become more competitive in cyberspace, where portions of the next war could be fought.