National Security Strategy Aims To Address New Challenges, Says Sullivan


By Jim Garamone

The world is at an inflection point, and the new National Security Strategy unveiled Wednesday is designed to address this new world, Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, said.

Sullivan, who spoke today at Georgetown University, compared the situation to the immediate post-World War II era when then-President Harry S. Truman promulgated the strategy that ultimately toppled the Soviet Union. 

As Truman did before him, this new strategy is Biden’s moment to define the challenges facing the United States and detail the steps needed to steer the U. S., its allies and partners through such perilous times. 

“Today, our world is once again at an inflection point,” he said. “We are in the early years [of] a decisive decade. The terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China will be set. The window of opportunity to deal with shared challenges like climate change will narrow drastically, even as the intensity of those challenges grows. So, we need to grasp our moment, just as Truman did his.”

The strategy is used to set budgets, encourage cooperation, advance diplomacy, steer investment, and much more. DOD’s National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy take their cues from the National Security Strategy. 

The strategy “touches on our plans and partners in every region of the world,” Sullivan said. “It details the president’s vision of a free, open, prosperous and secure international order. And it offers a road map for seizing this decisive decade to advance America’s vital interests, position America and our allies to outpace our competitors, and build broad coalitions to tackle shared challenges.” 

The strategy focuses on two main strategic challenges. The first is the geopolitical competition the United States faces with China and Russia.  

Sullivan said the United States “is better positioned than any other nation in the world to seize this moment — to help set the rules, shore up the norms, and advance the values that will define the world we want to live in.”

Since taking office, Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, and Secretary of States Antony Blinken have repeatedly stated that China is the United States’ “pacing challenge.” They have constantly spoken about the need to reach out to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

“[China’s] assertiveness at home and abroad is advancing an illiberal vision across economic, political, security and technological realms in competition with the West,” Sullivan said. “It is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and the growing capacity to do it.” 

Russia is another challenge — one that comes with its own set of risks. “Russia’s war against Ukraine builds on years of growing, regional aggression,” the national security advisor said. “Russian President Vladimir Putin is making reckless nuclear threats, willfully violating the U.N. charter, relentlessly targeting civilians, [and] acting with a brutality that threatens to drag us all back into the dark days of Soviet expansionism.” 

The second strategic challenge deals with the sheer scale and speed of transnational challenges that do not respect borders or adhere to ideologies, Sullivan said.

This challenge is exacerbated by climate change, which is already destroying lives and livelihoods in every part of the world, he said. Climate change is causing increased food and energy insecurity. Other challenges — including COVID-19 — further roil the waters.

“Our strategy proceeds from the premise that the two strategic challenges — geopolitical competition and shared transnational threats — are intertwined,” Sullivan said. “We cannot build the broad coalitions we need to out-compete our rivals, if we sideline the issues that most directly impact the lives of billions of people.”

Problems must be addressed, and — contrary to what some Americans may believe — they must be addressed globally, Sullivan said. “We are building a strategy fit for purpose for both competition we cannot ignore and global cooperation without which we cannot succeed.” 

Sullivan said the timelines align. “This is a decisive decade for shaping the terms of competition, especially with the PRC [China],” he said. “This is a decisive decade for getting ahead of the great global challenges — from climate to disease to emerging technology.”

The key to U.S. success in the coming years is investing ambitiously and rapidly in the sources of our national strength, Sullivan said. 

The second step is to mobilize the broadest coalition of nations to enhance U.S. influence. 

A third step is to work with other nations to shape the rules of the road for the 21st century economy.  

“Our approach encompasses all elements of our national power — diplomacy, development cooperation, industrial strategy, economic statecraft, intelligence and defense,” Sullivan said. 

On the defense element, the strategy stresses that the United States must equip the military and intelligence enterprises for strategic competition, while maintaining the capability to disrupt the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland, he said.

“The war in Ukraine … also highlights the need for a vibrant Defense Industrial Base — one that is capable of rapid mobilization and tooled for innovation and creative adaptation,” he said. “All of these steps we take at home are force-multiplied by another core source of our American strength — our alliances.”

Sullivan said the United States has re-engaged with allies and partners around the world. The Defeat ISIS coalition and the Ukraine Defense Assistance Group are examples of this portion of the strategy. “If there’s anything that’s a true hallmark of Joe Biden’s approach to the world, it is an investment in America’s allies,” he said. “A few years ago, NATO was working overtime to justify its value proposition. Today, it is at its apex of its purpose and power.”

In the Indo-Pacific, the United States reaffirmed iron-clad commitments to our treaty allies. “We’ve elevated a new partnership of democracies — the Quad — to help drive our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said. “One of the things that we are doing as we strengthen our alliances, is to drive more strategic alliance between the Atlantic and the Pacific.”

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — commonly called the Quad — includes four nations in the Indo-Pacific region: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.  

Within DOD, the National Defense Strategy draws from the White House document and at its heart is integrated deterrence. Secretary Austin has discussed this idea of the seamless combination of capabilities to convince potential adversaries that the costs of their hostile activities outweigh their benefits. 

Integrated deterrence calls for unprecedented cooperation across all domains of warfare — land, air, maritime, cyber and space. It also calls for cooperation with non-military domains — including economic, technological and information, according to the National Security Strategy.  

 “… Understanding that our competitors combine expansive ambitions with growing capabilities to threaten U.S. interests in key regions and in the homeland,” the strategy states.

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DoD News publishes news from the US Defense Department.

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