Joint Chiefs chairman: What will it take to remain world’s preeminent fighting force?

The United States has always been a maritime nation, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. 

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke Aug. 2, 2021, at the Navy League of the United States’ Sea-Air-Space Global Maritime Exposition at National Harbor, Md.

Sea control and power projection are critical to sea power superiority, he said. “In my mind, no one has ever done it better than the United States Navy, in the history of the world. The same is true for air and space and cyber in our ground forces. In fact, our joint force is second to none.”

How the department invests in time and how it allocates financial resources and talent is going to set the agenda for future generations to come, Milley said.

“Failure to recognize, adapt and capitalize on the changing character of war and failure to see the future produces devastating consequences. And it did for our military. It resulted in losses on a scale that’s difficult to fathom that none of us alive today have ever experienced,” he said, referring to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members killed in World Wars I and II after the nation was slow to arm.

Milley mentioned future capabilities needed to deter aggressors or to win should deterrence fail. They include artificial intelligence, long-range precision fires, hypersonics, unmanned systems, biotechnology, 3-D printing and miniature electronic components.

These and dozens of other emerging technologies are going to fundamentally change the conduct of warfare, he said.

“Those technologies are available right now to every country in the world. There’s nothing particularly secret about many of them. And I would argue that the country that masters those technologies … is likely to have a significant, and perhaps decisive advantage,” he said.

Milley said that all of these new technologies, along with maintaining current readiness, are expensive. 

“There are very few things as expensive as preventing a war. But there are two that are more expensive. One is fighting a war. And the most expensive of all is fighting and losing a war,” he pointed out.

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