WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States must prepare for a potential future conflict that bears little resemblance to the “old wars” that have long engulfed the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his first major political speech Friday.
Austin called for the use of technological advances and better integration of military operations worldwide to “understand faster, decide faster and act faster”.
“The way we are fighting the next big war will look very different from the way we fought the last one,” Austin said during a trip to Hawaii-based US Pacific Command.
Austin did not explicitly mention rivals such as China or Russia. But his remarks came when the United States began an unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan by order of President Joe Biden, aimed at ending America̵
Austin admitted that he had “spent most of the last two decades carrying out the last of the old wars.”
Critics say withdrawing from Afghanistan will not end the Asian country’s internal conflict, quell the threat of terrorism or make the 20-year experience of fighting insurgents irrelevant as militant organizations such as Islamic State spread around the world.
Austin’s remarks do not seem to prescribe specific actions or predict any specific conflict. Instead, he outlines broad, somewhat vague goals for running the Pentagon under Biden.
“We can’t predict the future,” Austin said. “So what we need is the right combination of technology, operational concepts and capabilities – all woven together in a network that is so reliable, so flexible and so scary that it will pause any opponent.”
Preventing conflict would mean creating “advantages for us and dilemmas for them,” he said.
The US response could be indirect, he said, outlining a scenario in which cyber warfare could be used “to respond to a maritime security incident hundreds of miles away.”
(Report by Phil Stewart; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)