US Military Planners Confront Chinas Growing Strength: A Need For New Talent
- In the 1990s, the US reduced defense spending and encouraged defense companies to merge
- This led to a less competitive industry with fewer prime contractors and higher prices for less military hardware
- At the same time, China experienced an economic boom and was able to build up its military strength
- This culminated in a 2020 war game that showed China could win a war against the US, prompting US military planners to recognize the need for a new source of talent to reclaim their status as best in the world.
Chinas Arms Race: Rising to Par with the U.S in Asia-Pacific Region
- Xi Jinping has been modernizing China’s Armed Forces and building a great wall of steel
- Xi plans to further shape the international system to better align with Chinese interests
- China has made strides in anti-carrier ballistic missiles, intermediate ballistic missiles, and hypersonic missiles in order to challenge U.S dominance in the Asia-Pacific region
- The PLA now stands on par with the Army, Navy, and Airforce, along with an increased emphasis on cyber warfare and dual use technologies for multi-domain precision warfare
- Robert McNamara’s influence caused a shift away from military R&D spending which has left the U.S unable to keep up with China’s advancements.
US Defense Industry Facing Growing Challenges in a Changing Tech Landscape
- Robert McNamara brought a technocratic approach to the Pentagon which changed how military funding was allocated and increased efficiency
- The U.S. defense industry’s focus on efficiency and process over progress decreased its ability to create new technology
- Cost of major weapons systems grew significantly and competition in the industry has decreased, leaving the US increasingly dependent on a few contractors
- It now takes 16 years for new ideas to become operational compared to 7 years in China
- Re-investment in R&D is necessary for the US to compete in an environment where adversaries are investing in new technologies
- The war in Ukraine demonstrates the necessity of software and AI in warfare.
US Military Struggles to Keep Up with Rapidly Developing Technology
- The US defense industry is struggling to keep up with rapidly developing technologies due to an inability to compete for engineering talent and outdated development practices
- Modern software development practices that involve quickly shipping a minimum viable product and improving it are the new model of efficiency
- Companies like SpaceX have adopted this practice, designing their products with private capital in a fraction of the time traditional projects take
- Embracing commercial technology, encouraging competition between small companies, and learning from Silicon Valley’s successes can help the US military regain its edge.