Budget Constraints at Pentagon Could Affect National Security

The Defense Department starts its yearlong review of strategic priorities.

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The challenge emerging from China is even more formidable, according to Krepinevich. The Chinese People's Liberation Army is "aggressively developing capabilities and strategies to degrade the U.S. military's ability to project power in the region," says Krepinevich. "Senior Chinese political and military leaders decided it would be foolhardy to challenge the U.S. military head-on for strategic dominance." Rather, he says, China combines "Western technology with Eastern stratagems."

Krepinevich, who has designed war-game scenarios for the U.S. military, warns that the Chinese will be able to launch cyberattacks by exploiting the element of surprise. They might do this by breaking up the U.S. military's communications networks with pre-emptive attacks "to the point where such attacks, or even the threat of such attacks, would raise the costs of U.S. action to prohibitive levels." The Chinese call the military capabilities that accompany this strategic philosophy "assassin's mace," he explained. The Pentagon has repeatedly fended off cyberattacks from Chinese hackers.

Given such technological threats, as well as America's weakened economic position, a major strategy review "comparable to those during the first decade of the Cold War is in order," says Krepinevich. It is one, senior defense officials add, that will also require a similar degree of urgency.