The United States faces a volatile, unpredictable world and must keep up its guard, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 26.
President Donald J. Trump nominated Dunford, who has served as the nation’s highest-ranking military officer since October 2015, to serve another two-year term as chairman. The chairman and vice chairman are appointed for two-year terms and can serve a total of six years, with reconfirmation hearings every two years.
Dunford started his testimony saying the U.S. military has a competitive advantage over any adversary, but that the advantage is eroding.
"If reconfirmed, I look forward to working together with the committee to ensure the chairman testifying in 2025 has the same degree of confidence in our ability to provide for the common defense," Dunford said.
Since taking office, Dunford has stressed that is the nation is in the midst of the most volatile and complex security environment since World War II. Russia is the primary competitor, and President Vladimir Putin continues to invest in a full range of capabilities designed to limit U.S. power projection, erode U.S. influence and undermine NATO's credibility, the chairman said.
China is using a similar strategy designed to limit America's ability to project power and is working to weaken U.S. alliances in the Pacific, the chairman told the panel.
"Iran is projecting malign influences across the Middle East," he added, "threatening freedom of navigation while supporting terrorist organizations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen."
All nations in the world have focused on the destabilizing threat posed by North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver those weapons, the general told the senators.
"We are also confronted by al-Qaida, [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and other transnational terrorist organizations," Dunford said. "While we have made significant progress against core ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we are not complacent, and much work remains to be done." He noted that the United States is deploying additional forces to Afghanistan in support of the president's South Asia strategy.
This instability around the world has to be viewed in the context of the U.S. defense budget, the chairman said. "We need a renewed focus to restore joint readiness and develop the warfighting capabilities we will need to defend the nation in the future," he said. "We face very real and significant readiness challenges today, and we have failed to adequately invest in the future.
"I can't state it any clearer," he continued. "If we don't address this dynamic with sustained, sufficient and predictable funding over the course of several years, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage."
Losing the advantage will erode the American military's ability to deter conflict or win if deterrence fails, he said.