Threats against the US aren't about nukes anymore — but the military hasn't evolved much: strategist
Military vehicles of the US Army stand on the grounds of the Grafenwoehr military training area. The US Army is transferring around 1,000 soldiers, including tanks and military vehicles, from its base in Vilseck in Germany to Romania. Armin Weigel/dpa

In March 2022 Congress passed another defense spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. The reason was that they'd already reached more than half of their annual budget of $1.5 trillion. The United States spends about as much on defense as the combined total of China, India, the UK, Russia, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia combined, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calculated.

The financial inequality has left most countries in a position that there's no possibility of going up against the U.S. in a traditional war space. About 15 years ago, then-senior military adviser Thomas P.M. Barnett penned in his book The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century that the battlespace in the future of war won't always be the traditional war to which Americans are accustomed.

"Here's my favorite bonehead concept from the 1990s in the Pentagon: the theory of anti-access, area-denial asymmetrical strategies," he said in a TED talk that went viral at the time. "This is gobbledygook for if the United States fights somebody we're going to be huge. They're going to be small. And if they try to fight us in the traditional, straight-up manner we're going to kick their ass, which is why people don't try to do that anymore."

The future of the Pentagon isn't going to be ships and planes, because very few countries can afford to go up against that. So, they're crafting new techniques that are more cost-effective and conducive to a smaller military budget.

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Politico wrote Wednesday, that 15 years after Barnett told the Pentagon they had to start looking at new strategies, "the Pentagon is increasingly waking up to serious national security hazards that aren’t nukes, tanks and bombs."

"The pandemic was, in many ways, a wake-up call that we need to focus on military challenges and non-traditional threats,” said Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council associate director Anca Agachi. “It changed the meaning of security into a more expansive definition.”

The pandemic came four years after Russia was able to hack into a number of U.S. government websites, political parties and emails of staff for candidates. The pandemic wasn't the first indication that the battlefield of traditional warfare had changed, but it might finally be the indication necessary for the military to look not to $5.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to make additonal Navy ships that look more attractive.

The banana peel on the tarmac isn't merely hackers, Agachi explained that biothreats like COVID-19 will continue to grow as more diseases evolve. Thousands of sick soldiers impact American military readiness. Still, Congress decided that a vaccine wasn't all that important for COVID anymore.

The other major issues are things like "climate change, irregular migration and food and energy insecurity." He also suggested, "disinformation and tech coming out of the private sector."

Anticipating the next generation of threats is necessary "to be significantly better at quickly anticipating some of these challenges,” Agachi said.

It has been a suggestion for over a decade, it's unclear if the Pentagon will listen this time. Barnett said in his speech 15 years ago that the Pentagon would thank him and ask him to come back the next year and remind them again without doing anything he suggested.

Read the full interview with Agachi at Politico.