Many observers have concluded that the post-Cold War era of international relations—which
began in the early 1990s and is sometimes referred to as the unipolar moment (with the United
States as the unipolar power)—began to fade in 2006-2008, and that by 2014, the international
environment had shifted to a fundamentally different situation of renewed great power
competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements
of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.

The shift to renewed great power competition was acknowledged alongside other considerations
in the Obama Administration’s June 2015 National Military Strategy, and was placed at the center
of the Trump Administration’s December 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and January
2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). The December 2017 NSS and January 2018 NDS
formally reoriented U.S. national security strategy and U.S. defense strategy toward an explicit
primary focus on great power competition with China and Russia. Department of Defense (DOD)
officials have subsequently identified countering China’s military capabilities as DOD’s top
priority.

The shift to renewed great power competition has profoundly changed the conversation about
U.S. defense issues. Counterterrorist operations and U.S. military operations in the Middle East,
which moved to the center of discussions of U.S. defense issues following the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, continue to be conducted, but are now a less dominant element in the
conversation, and discussions of U.S. defense issues now feature a new or renewed emphasis on
the following, all of which relate to China and/or Russia:
 grand strategy and the geopolitics of great power competition as a starting point
for discussing U.S. defense issues;
 organizational changes within DOD;
 nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence;
 the global allocation of U.S. military force deployments;
 new U.S. military service operational concepts;
 U.S. and allied military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region;
 U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe;
 capabilities for conducting so-called high-end conventional warfare;
 maintaining U.S. superiority in conventional weapon technologies;
 innovation and speed of U.S. weapon system development and deployment, to
help maintain U.S. superiority in fielded weapons;
 mobilization capabilities for an extended-length large-scale conflict;
 supply chain security, meaning awareness and minimization of reliance in U.S.
military systems on foreign components, subcomponents, materials, and
software; and
 capabilities for countering so-called hybrid warfare and gray-zone tactics.

The issue for Congress is how U.S. defense planning should respond to this shift, and whether to
approve, reject, or modify the Trump Administration’s proposed defense funding levels, strategy,
plans, and programs for responding to this shift. Congress’s decisions on these issues could have
significant or even profound implications for U.S. defense capabilities and funding requirements.

 

Full report here: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R43838