‘Get to work’: US defence chief tells Pentagon to sharpen China focus

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, has directed the Pentagon to sharpen its focus on porcelana, which the United States has tagged as its top strategic rival.

“Now, it is up to the department to get to work,” Austin said on Wednesday after issuing an internal directive to the Pentagon bureaucracy.

The directive, details of which are classified, comes after an assessment by a taskforce established by the Biden administration in February to study the defense department’s strategy towards China.

“The initiatives I am putting forward today are nested inside the larger US government approach to China and will help inform the development of the national defence strategy we are working on,” Austin said.

A senior Pentagon official said the taskforce had identified a “‘say-do gap between the stated prioritisation of China and what we saw in a number of areas related to attention and resources and processes”.

“The directive today is really about ensuring that the department lives up to that prioritisation,” the official said.

Austin said the directive would “improve the department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, bolster deterrence, and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture, and a modernised civilian and military workforce”.

Pentagon operations over the past two decades have been focused largely on dealing with jihadist militants in the Middle East and not a modern army such as that of China.

The Pentagon’s 2018 defence strategy identified China as a major strategic competitor but the taskforce found that not much had been done to meet the challenges posed by Beijing.

los Militar de Estados Unidos is seeking to expand its presence in the Pacific at a time when China has been increasingly belligerent towards Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.

The US maintains a significant presence in the Middle East, even as it has begun the withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

To ensure that his directive is followed, Austin will be personally responsible for the implementation of the classified recommendations of the taskforce.

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