Report: U.S. military at risk of losing war to Russia, China

Wright-Patterson AFB ‘crucial to avoiding a defeat if there’s a World War III,’ expert said.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base may be the difference between victory and defeat if war eventually breaks out between the United States and Russia or China, a defense expert said about a new report out Wednesday.

The U.S. is at risk of losing a war to either country, states a report released Wednesday by a bipartisan commission that Congress created to evaluate the Trump administration’s defense strategy. But, a defense analyst insists that the technology developed at Wright-Patt — which is home to the Air Force Research Lab, — could help the U.S. be victorious in a new military conflict.

“Wright-Patt has brought the tools that will make it possible to avoid defeat in Europe or Asia, said Loren Thompson, senior defense analyst at Virginia-based Lexington Institute. “(Wright-Patt) is crucial to avoiding a defeat if there’s a World War III.”

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The National Defense Strategy Commission, comprised of former top Republican and Democratic officials selected by Congress, evaluated the Trump administration's 2018 National Defense Strategy, which ordered a vast reshaping of the U.S. military to compete with Beijing and Moscow in an era of renewed great-power competition.

Though the commission endorsed parts of Trump’s strategy, it warned that Washington isn’t moving fast enough or investing sufficiently to put the vision into practice, risking a further erosion of American military dominance that could become a national security emergency. The office of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he is reviewing the report and its recomendations.

“Rob has been a strong proponent of rebuilding our military both to strengthen our national security and bolster Ohio’s defense installations,” said Emily Benavides, a Portman spokesperson. “Our military should have the resources it needs to carry out their mission ensuring the safety and security of the American people.”

The picture of the national security landscape that the 12-person commission sketched is a bleak one, in which an American military that has enjoyed undisputed dominance for decades is failing to receive the resources, innovation and prioritization its leaders need to outmuscle China and Russia in a race for military might reminiscent of the Cold War.

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The military balance has shifted adversely for the United States in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, undermining the confidence of American allies and increasing the likelihood of military conflict, the commission found, after reviewing classified documents, receiving Pentagon briefings and interviewing top defense officials.

The commission argued that despite a $716 billion American defense budget this year, which is four times the size of China’s and more than 10 times that of Russia, the effort to reshape the U.S. defense establishment to counter current threats is under-resourced. It recommended that Congress lift budget caps on defense spending in the next two years that in the past have hobbled the military’s ability to plan for the long term.

The call for even more robust defense spending comes as the Democrats take over the House and seek rollbacks of key Pentagon programs. It also comes after the White House instructed the Pentagon to pare back its planned budget for the coming year by some 4.5 percent, or about $33 billion, after the federal deficit increased sharply following last year’s tax cut.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he helped lead an effort to provide more funding to the Department of Defense through 2019. But, he said he will have to work hard in the new Democrat-led House to “ensure these resource levels are not undone.”

“This report confirms what we already know: sequestration has been incredibly damaging to our military’s readiness,” said Turner. “We are continuing to work to reverse that, but time cannot be bought back.”

The Washington Post contributed to this report

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