By Ellie Kaufman, CNN
The Pentagon will focus on building up bases in Guam and Australia to better prepare the US military to counter China, a senior defense official said on Monday.
The moves have been prompted by the Department of Defense’s global posture review, which President Joe Biden ordered Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to undertake shortly after taking office in February. Austin started the global posture review in March. The review is classified, but a senior defense official provided some details about the review’s findings.
Biden “recently approved” Austin’s findings and recommendations from the global posture review, Dr. Mara Karlin, performing the duties of deputy under secretary for policy, said at a briefing on Monday.
The Indo-Pacific region was a major focus, because of Secretary Austin’s emphasis on “China as the pacing challenge,” for the Department, the senior defense official said.
The Biden administration has made countering China its main foreign policy priority as tensions have increased with Beijing, particularly over the issue of Taiwan and senior Pentagon officials have publicly expressed alarm about China’s efforts to upgrade and modernize its military. Last month Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said China had successfully tested a hypersonic missile in what was “very close” to a Sputnik moment.
To counter China, the review directs the Department to enhance “infrastructure in Guam and Australia,” and to prioritize “military construction across the Pacific Islands,” the official said, as well as “seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities.”
“In Australia, you’ll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you’ll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation, and more broadly across the Indo-Pacific, you’ll see a range of infrastructure improvements, in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia,” Karlin said during the briefing.
The global posture review also directs the Department to focus more on the Indo-Pacific region by “reducing” the number of troops and equipment in other areas of the world, “to enable improved warfighting readiness and increased activities” in the Indo-Pacific, the official said.
On Russia, the Department declined to provide specific information about how the global posture review is directing the US military to prepare to counter threats from Moscow. Broadly speaking, one of the goals of the review is to “re-establish readiness standards,” so that the US military is “agile and responsive to crises as they emerge,” the official said.
The US military is working to “re-establish readiness” in Eastern Europe “with the goal of strengthening a combat credible deterrent vis a vis Russia and the specific requirements of that region,” the official said when pressed on the issue, but they would not go into more detail on how the US military is preparing to counter Russia.
In the Middle East, the review directed the Department to “continue to support the defeat ISIS campaign,” with the current US military presence in Iraq and Syria, as well as continuing to work on building up “the capacity of partner forces,” in those countries. But overall, the review directs Austin to “conduct additional analysis on enduring posture requirements in the Middle East,” the official said.
Afghanistan was not officially included in the global posture review, because there is a “separate” National Security Council-led “process” that is “reviewing the way ahead for US presence there,” the official said.
Overall, the US had “something like 75 consultations,” with allies and partners when putting together the review, among them “NATO allies, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and over a dozen partners across the Middle East and Africa,” Karlin said.
The review also did not include “functional capabilities” like nuclear, space and cyber, because those are being addressed in other Department specific reviews, the official said.
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CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed reporting.