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US Struggling To Maintain High-Tech Military Edge Against China

US Struggling To Maintain High-Tech Military Edge Against China
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is seen on the tarmac during press day for the Fort Lauderdale Air Show at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Nov. 19, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX

Thursday, 01 April 2021 01:23 PM

The Pentagon is facing major hurdles to maintain the U.S. military’s shrinking edge over China — and is struggling to update its arsenal and field new technology in hypersonics and artificial intelligence, the Washington Post reported.

According to the Post, some senior officials warn that China could be within five years of surpassing a U.S. military beset by a slow budgeting process, congressional requirements, and the Pentagon's inability to piggyback on private-sector advances.

"It's like the Pentagon is finding itself staring in the rearview mirror in the face of oncoming traffic," Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Post.

The news outlet cited challenges including a lag in using Boeing’s KC-46 tanker, developed to replace the 1950s-era KC-135, the lack of full-rate production of a problem-plagued Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter plane; and a race to keep up with China and Russia in hypersonic weapons.

Citing a report by a government-backed commission on artificial intelligence, the Post noted there’s also a dearth of needed skills among government personnel.

In the report, experts warn the window is closing on a shot to outmatch China, which has set a goal of AI primacy by 2030.

"The scope for action remains, but America's room for maneuver is shrinking," said the commission, which includes former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

The Post reported the Pentagon may ultimately be forced to abandon a years-long attempt to create a $10 billion cloud infrastructure because of legal challenges, even as experts warn officials have underestimated the importance of software and underinvested in digital security.

Will Roper, who sought to accelerate Air Force innovation as the service’s top acquisition official during the Trump administration, told the Post that unlike during the Cold War, the bulk of U.S. research and development funding now takes place in the private sector, not in government.

"So, by not being able to tap commercial innovation, the military is losing out on most of its opportunities," he told the news outlet.

Meanwhile, China's defense transformation follows a principle known as "military-civil fusion," which aims to allow the state to capitalize on private-sector advances, the Post reported. Overseen personally by President Xi Jinping, the strategy can include exploitation of dual-use products or even forced technology transfers.

Roper told the Post the U.S. military should focus on hardware and other ways to power major advances in software or AI.

"Scale is going to be against us in almost every case against China," he said. "We’re going to be looking for technologies that are leaps ahead."

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Politics
The Pentagon is facing major hurdles to maintain the U.S. military’s shrinking edge over China — and is struggling to update its arsenal...
pentagon, technology, AI, China
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2021-23-01
Thursday, 01 April 2021 01:23 PM
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