President Joe Biden announced a new Pentagon task force that will review U.S. defense policy toward China, as his administration weighs whether to retain or modify the Trump administration’s largely confrontational approach to Beijing.
“We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” Biden said Wednesday in a speech at the Pentagon following a meeting with senior military and civilian leadership. The new panel will “look at our strategy and operational concepts, technology, and force posture,” he said.
The 15-member task force will have a broad portfolio, including defense strategy, Chinese technology and intelligence, and U.S. alliances and partnerships in Asia. The effort, which will include civilian and military officials and be coordinated with China policy reviews being undertaken elsewhere in the administration, will be led by Ely Ratner, a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
But the impact of the review, if any, may not be known for some time. The panel is expected to develop recommendations internally over the next four months, but the Pentagon says it does not anticipate a public report of the findings. Military leaders are expected to brief members of Congress on the conclusions.
The White House has said Biden directed similar policy reviews of tariffs imposed on Chinese goods during the Trump administration, as well as previous efforts to block or force the sale of assets by technology companies including ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and the Tencent Holdings chat platform WeChat.
Biden’s trip to the Pentagon was largely billed as a chance to thank service members and highlight the historic confirmation of Austin, the first African American in U.S. history to hold his post. Biden has ordered a military-wide effort to address white nationalism and violent extremism after current and former service members participated in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Following his remarks, Biden is expected to tour the African Americans in Service Corridor with Austin.
The visit to the Pentagon is the latest in a series of efforts by Biden to demonstrate stability to career government employees after former President Donald Trump’s administration regarded them with skepticism. Last week, Biden visited the State Department and told diplomats his administration would “empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.”
Turnover at the top ranks of the Pentagon was a hallmark of Trump’s tenure. The former president’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned after Trump announced an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Syria over the objections of his national security team. And Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper shortly after his re-election defeat last year, after the pair clashed over the president’s desire to deploy active-duty troops to disperse protests against police brutality that gripped some American cities last summer.