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Speaker says US adversaries well armed

Dr. David Johnson shared what he believes the future holds in store for the Army and also Army Fires when he addressed locals Thursday.

A principal researcher with the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, Johnson was summoned here by the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce at a new event, the Multi-Domain Banquet.

"I believe the future is now, and that we know a great deal about our adversaries and the operating environment that is relevant to the deep future. And the challenges I believe can be characterized as the return of great-power competition," he said.

It's time to admit there are high-level adversaries that are competent and have good weapons and start developing better ones.

"These adversaries have been paying attention to us, and they intentionally take away the air overhead surveillance advantage we have and have enjoyed with impunity since the end of the Cold War. And they take away our ability to deploy," Johnson said.

"I think that time is not really on our side, and we need a sense of urgency ... and new technology," he added.

In a recent article, Johnson wrote that he thinks the U.S. is awakening from a 25-year slumber during which the focus was almost exclusively on regular warfare and counter-insurgency. Events in the Ukraine, Syria and the Pacific have finally brought the Defense Department's attention back to the high-end state actors who have weapons ranging from small arms to nuclear weapons.

"I think the thing we have to remember, this is the first time since the 1940s, when we faced competent, well-equipped adversaries in both the Pacific and Europe, and they have significant home-field advantages, particularly in their evolving anti-access and aerial denial capabilities. Right now we face, particularly in Europe, the probability of being overmatched," he noted.

"The National Defense Strategy is clear that the longterm strategic competition with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the department, and require both increased and sustained investment, because of the magnitude of the threats they pose to the United States, our security and our prosperity, and the potential, quite frankly, for those threats to increase in the future," said Johnson.

"The Russians in particular have been busy over the past several years, correcting deficiencies in their military after the wars in Chechnya, Georgia and the ongoing operations in the Ukraine and Syria. And I believe that they are the pacing threat for our army," he said, taking stock a long list of tools at Russia's disposal. When compared to Russian capabilities, the U.S. has gaps in some areas, and closing those would be equally useful against other adversaries to include mid-tier hybrid threats.

"We also have to admit we could be defeated to understand what we have to do to succeed," Johnson said.

China is on course to become a numerically superior. technologically peer (or superior) and nuclear-armed global power, he warned. China aspires to fully modernize its military by 2035 and be as good as everyone in the world, and by 2050 to be the world-class force in the world. China also has a clear plan about how it's going to do these things.

Johnson touched on the two Army modernization priorities that directly affect Fort Sill, long-range precision fires and air and missile defense. Another priority that is very connected to these is network command, control, communication and intelligence.

The next big step is going to be establishment of Army Futures Command, he predicted.

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