WASHINGTON – Inside the Pentagon, China as the pacing threat and Russia as an acute threat dominate planning and discussions. The Defense Department, for instance, just released the 2022 China Military Power Report last week, and both China and Russia were central in October’s National Defense Strategy. But the Pentagon is ready for things beyond just China and Russia, said deputy assistant secretary of defense for force readiness.
“Strategic readiness, it’s about balance,” said Kimberly Jackson, during a discussion Wednesday with Center for a New American Security. “We are not foregoing the absolute need to be ready in the near-term, because we are thinking about readiness from a strategic perspective.”
Readiness, Jackson said, means also ensuring that the department is able to conduct the operations and respond to the contingencies it can’t predict, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
“That’s not something that we planned for years before,” Jackson said. “We need to be able to have our processes enable the predictability that allow us to plan and to resource into the future and to think thoughtfully about how we divest, how we modernize, how we ensure that readiness for years out — but at the same time have enough flexibility built into the system and into our decision making so that we can respond, and we can be agile when things like that … emerge.”
How the department has been able to respond in Ukraine, Jackson said, is at least partly because it has in place already a process that is adaptable enough to let the department respond to anything.
“We have been able to take a contingency, to take a problem that has been posed to the department and figure out a responsible and rigorous and repeatable and somewhat agnostic process that can be applied to a whole lot of different readiness challenges,” she said. “Even if that process were perfect — and of course it’s not — we’re constantly iterating on it.”
Such processes rely on data and analysis, she said. But more than that, they also rely on discipline, Jackson said.
“In order to be disciplined and make sure that we have the resources and the capabilities that we need in the future, that means that we as decision makers have to have real and tough conversations about whether or not we’re willing to incur those risks that are presented to us with every single choice that we make,” she said.