The US National Defense Strategy 2022: What’s Missing

The US National Defense Strategy 2022 was unveiled on Oct. 27 by US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III. The defense strategy flows from the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy 2022 which was released earlier in October and rests on the same main assumption that China is the biggest challenge to US national security, looking forward. The released defense strategy also includes the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review.

China is seen as a “pacing challenge” and the “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades”. According to the national defense strategy, China presents “the most consequential and systemic challenge”. The scope and scale of threats facing the US have fundamentally changed. China and Russia now “pose more dangerous challenges to safety and security at home, even as terrorist threats persist”, the strategy reads.

The difference is between strategic competition with China and an acute threat posed by Russia. “Unlike China, Russia can’t systemically challenge the United States over the long term”, Secretary of Defense Austin said. 

The strategy outlines four defense priorities for the US, moving forward:

  • Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC;
  • Deterring strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners;
  • Deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary – prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific region, then the Russia challenge in Europe, and;
  • Building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem.

The foremost challenge the US is facing is the strategic competition with China: “The most comprehensive and serious challenge to U.S. national security is the PRC’s coercive and increasingly aggressive endeavor to refashion the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to suit its interests and authoritarian preferences. The PRC seeks to undermine U.S. alliances and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, and leverage its growing capabilities, including its economic influence and the PLA’s growing strength and military footprint, to coerce its neighbors and threaten their interests. The PRC’s increasingly provocative rhetoric and coercive activity towards Taiwan are destabilizing, risk miscalculation, and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait. This is part of a broader pattern of destabilizing and coercive PRC behavior that stretches across the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and along the Line of Actual Control.”

The defense strategy also outlines a number of other direct national security threats posed by North Korea, Iran, terrorist networks, climate change, and pandemics.

The Department of Defense is set to “reinforce and build out a resilient security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region in order to sustain a free and open regional order and deter attempts to resolve disputes by force.” The defense strategy intends to deepen and modernize the alliance with Japan and with Australia through investments in posture, interoperability, and expansion of multilateral cooperation; and will foster advantage through advanced technology cooperation with partnerships such as the AUKUS and the Indo-Pacific Quad.

The defense strategy is based on the principle of deterrence, including denial, resilience, and cost imposition. The strategy rests on deterrence by “reducing competitors’ perceptions of the net benefits of aggression relative to restraint.” The strategy also refers to gray zone areas used in the calculations by adversaries of the threshold below which the US won’t use force.

There is a big hole that’s missing from the defense policy and that’s the security of the Southern US border. That’s what’s missing and it’s a result of the Biden administration’s policy of purposeful neglect of the Southern Border.

The US doesn’t have to be present in faraway places such as the Indo-Pacific at the expense of the actual security and defense threats at home. The Southern border faces large scale trans-border organized crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration. Actual imminent threats are missing from the defense strategy at the expense of rather stretched national security threats on the other side of the globe which the US has no business inflaming. In comparison to the competition with China, the situation on the Southern border is an actual threat to national security. The lack of mention of the border is a purposeful omission – not a gap in the strategy.

Right now, the Biden administration chooses geopolitical chess and global assertion at the expense of addressing the actual defense threats facing the US territory. The unnecessary emphasis on China and the Indo-Pacific comes at the expense of the government’s negligence of the actual security situation at the Southern border.

Strategic competition with a country like China does not automatically equal a threat to national security. That jump is too big to make but it seems like that jump is at the center of the US government policy towards China across the board, across institutions. The argument that the US needs to confront China in order to protect allies from China is a rather weak argument and one that will be used to drag China and the US into a direct confrontation. That should not happen.

[Header image: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III conducts a press briefing after the release of the National Defense Strategy on Oct. 27 2022. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza]

*Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author and political commentator. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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