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The U.S. must create defense alliances based on technology, rather than concentrating exclusively on geographic partnerships, said a key Democrat reviewing the status of recommendations a task force made two years ago.
Such technology-based alliances would serve well in deterrence against China, Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), one of the leaders of the Future Defense Task Force and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said.
Moulton is pitching the international technology alliances as his task force releases a report on the progress that Congress and the Pentagon made carrying out recommendations to shake up the national security apparatus.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that such alliances are possible, he said, with Turkey sending armed drones that Ukraine has used to hit Russian tanks and disable multiple rocket launch systems.
“There are interesting bedfellows around the world,” Moulton said in an interview. The U.S. should reach out to the countries that lead the way in innovative technology and establish the norms for its use, he added.
While Congress, the Pentagon, and industry have made progress carrying out the 2020 Future Defense Task Force recommendations, some significant challenges remain, said Moulton. He worked closely on the review with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who co-chaired the task force and signed the report.
“Our adversaries increasingly operate in global, rather than purely regional, contexts,” the lawmakers wrote in the progress report. “Our partnerships and treaties should reflect that reality.”
The hardest fight in Congress will be retiring weapons that are outdated or can no longer stand up to new challenges and technologies, Moulton said. It’s one area that he will try to work on for the fiscal 2023 defense authorization measure.
Lawmakers often resist retiring weapons made in their states and districts.
“There are so many parochial interests in Congress,” Moulton said.
To persuade them, Moulton a retired Marine, is pushing for regular briefings from the military services about future capabilities and threats. Even if older equipment is ready for war, it can be a significant weakness if it isn’t the right equipment to deter a potential enemy, Moulton said. Lawmakers’ opposition to retiring older equipment could “imperil national security,” he said.
One of the most high-profile fights is the one over the A-10 armor piercing aircraft, which the Air Force has been trying to retire. Delegations from Arizona, Georgia, and Utah—whose states house A-10 units or manufacturing upgrades—have in large part blocked those efforts.
Task force leaders found that many notable recommendations have been carried out, some of which were included in the fiscal 2022 defense authorization (Public Law 117-81). Only seven recommendations haven’t progressed or face significant barriers to taking effect.
To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org