Brown: Joint Force must continually drive change as threats evolve

  • Published
  • By Joseph Clark
  • DOD News

The Defense Department must continually drive change and anticipate emerging threats to meet evolving national security demands, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. CQ Brown Jr., said April 16.

Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association's 2024 Missile Defense Conference in Washington, Brown encouraged warfighters and their enablers to eschew complacency and seek the initial discomfort that often accompanies true progress.   

"If we're comfortable, we're probably not changing," he said. "Leading-edge organizations are comfortable being uncomfortable because they anticipate, and they drive change.  

"In this dynamic arena of global security, the joint force needs to be a leading-edge organization to stay relevant, to face challenges head on, to embrace change, to adapt and to innovate continuously," he said.  

Brown described an evolving national security landscape characterized by near-peer competitors and potential adversaries, including China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, who are actively pursuing and developing advanced capabilities to confront U.S. forces. 

He noted China remains as the United States' pacing challenge and the only nation with both the capability and intent to reshape the region and the globe.  

"You see the People's Republic of China continue to undertake aggressive military behavior in the South China Sea and throughout the Indo-Pacific and across the world," Brown said.  

He also cited Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Iran's aims to extend its influence throughout the Middle East, and North Korea's persistent destabilizing actions and provocative ballistic missile tests. These threats are further compounded as terrorist organizations seek to capitalize on instability to further their aims. 

"Right now, we see all of these challenges active at the same time," Brown said. "They're not isolated; they're interconnected." 

Addressing these combined challenges, Brown said, requires a strategic approach that addresses immediate threats while modernizing for future contingencies. 

Brown's remarks add to those of senior Pentagon officials who underscored, during the conference, the imperative for continued investments in missile defense and deterrence capabilities as U.S. adversaries increasingly seek to extend their offensive reach and threaten to upend global peace and stability. 

Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, also a speaker at NDIA's conference, said the threats posed by adversaries' intermediate and long-range missile technologies are accelerating at a concerning pace. 

Shyu noted frequent and ongoing missile tests by North Korea and China in describing the evolving threat. She also cited Russia's airborne attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and the rise of missile and drone attacks by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East. 

John F. Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, joined Shyu in focusing on Iran's weekend attack on Israel as evidence of the evolving challenges in defeating airborne threats.  

Iran launched more than 300 airborne weapons at targets in Israel. Those weapons, which were launched from locations in Syria and Yemen in addition to Iran, included more than 110 medium-range ballistic missiles, dozens of land-attack cruise missiles, and over 150 aerial vehicles. 

U.S., Israeli and partner forces destroyed the vast majority of the airborne weapons before they reached their targets. 

U.S. Central Command forces, supported by two U.S. Navy destroyers, destroyed more than 80 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles and at least six ballistic missiles.    

Plumb noted that the attack underscored the multifaceted threat the U.S. and allies must contend with. 

That threat is characterized by evolving tactics that have introduced a wide range of aerial platforms, distances and attack vectors by adversaries. Those evolving tactics and technologies allow adversaries to more easily conceal weapons and evade detection once launched. 

Both Shyu and Plumb warned that the U.S. must not stop investing in and improving upon its missile defense capabilities as the threats continue to evolve.    

Brown said the U.S. must meet the challenge head-on and continue to invest in capabilities that will ensure its warfighters are armed with an asymmetric advantage in any potential conflict.  

"We can't sit on our laurels," he said. "We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly shape it."