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Today, states are pursuing an array of supposedly "disruptive" or "game-changing" technologies that could alter how they organize, train, equip, and employ their forces, including their nuclear forces. The 2022 National Defense Strategy emphasized the link between some of these technologies and the risk of nuclear use, noting that "a wide range of new or fast-evolving technologies and applications are complicating escalation dynamics and creating new challenges for strategic stability."
For the past three decades, Chinese leadership has closely studied the United States’ power projection capabilities and concept of operations. Consequently, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has tailored its anti-access/area denial approach and air defenses to prevent the United States from leveraging its current strengths. A short- or medium-range concept of air power is unlikely to be successful for power projection or deterrence in the Western Pacific, and a change in direction for the U.S. Air Force is likely necessary.
Given the rapid pace of change throughout Asia in recent decades, assessing China’s longer-term trajectory – and that of the Indo-Pacific region as a whole – represents a huge challenge for defense and security planners. Attempts to predict China’s strategic posture 15 to 30 years from now are hampered by a far more volatile security environment than that which governed the Cold War era.
The United States is increasingly engaged in a long-term competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation–a competition in which U.S. defense leaders and experts argue the U.S. military is falling behind technologically and operationally. U.S. forces, however, may be unable to gain and maintain superiority over their great power competitors by simply using improved versions of today’s forces to conduct modest variations on existing tactics.
The U.S. Navy’s surface fleet is at a crossroads. Today’s force lacks the size, resilience, and offensive capacity to contribute effectively to degrading, delaying, or denying aggression.
The proliferation and growing sophistication of civilian and military EMS capabilities has resulted in an increasingly congested and contested electromagnetic environment for which the U.S. military is unprepared. Over the past decade, several government and external assessments found that the U.S. military is falling behind Chinese and Russian forces in electronic warfare (EW) and that U.S. forces will be challenged to achieve EMS superiority in future conflicts.