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Meeting the challenges of defending America in the 21st century 

As the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I am responsible for the National Defense Authorization Act, which covers issues from military personnel policy, to authorizing the number of surface vessels in our Navy, to congressional oversight of military operations, in a way that balances the spending of taxpayer dollars and guaranteeing our readiness for today and for future combat.  

It is the Armed Services Committee’s responsibility to make sure that the Congress is thinking as comprehensively as possible in posturing for a potential conflict, whether that transpires on land, in the air, at sea, in space, or over the internet. The threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party will not allow for us to spend decades preparing for 21st century warfare. I believe that warfare in space and cyberspace will define conflict in the 21st century.  

As I have served on this committee, it has been obvious that to be successful in modern conflict, our nation needed the capacity to fight and win in space. We had to match and exceed the capacity of potential adversaries such as China and Russia who leverage space for their own interests. With the help of allies from across the aisle and the executive branch we established the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces in 2019.     

Technology and information is changing our lives, our society, and our country, and our national security and modern warfare. It was nearly 20 years ago when cyberspace was officially recognized as a “warfighting domain” on par with land, sea, air, and space. We have made considerable progress with the establishment of United States Cyber Command and the Cyber Mission Forces; however, I do not believe we are where we need to be in light of our adversaries.  

Our adversaries have already utilized cyber as a tool to harass the United States and our allies. In the past few years, we have learned the extent of the cyber threat China poses to the U.S. government and private sector networks. Just as China has increased its nuclear arsenal and the size of its military — China has also intensified its focus on cyber and the aggressive cyber operations it conducts against the United States.  

Similar to the land, air, maritime, and space domains, we have to be able to both defend ourselves and hold potential adversaries at risk. That means that our networks, installations, and weapon systems are defended, our offensive and defensive capabilities are sufficiently resourced, and we are organized and postured for success in a future conflict.  

The United States is presently at a crossroads in its national defense, still postured and equipped for a 20th century fight. However, there’s still a window in which we can make the necessary changes and reforms required to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Informed by our own history, it’s the responsibility of leaders from the Administration, the military, and Congress to work constructively in advance of conflict. Along with my colleagues, I will pursue every recourse to avoid repeating the mistakes of yesteryear.  

Mike Rogers is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 

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