Beijing and Moscow are trying to close the gap. The Third Offset is the plan to make sure it never happens.
America’s military-technological advantage, an aspect of its strategic power since the end of the Cold War, is eroding. In response, the Pentagon launched the third offset strategy in 2014—a department-wide effort to find new ways, both technological and institutional, to leap ahead of its competitors. In a new report for the United States Studies Centre, I argue that for the US the third offset is partly an answer to matching its stagnating defence budget with its strategic ambitions.
As Washington concentrated on fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beijing (and Moscow) invested in advanced missile technology, satellites, intelligence and reconnaissance assets, and networking capabilities. That has allowed China and Russia to employ anti-access and area denial (A2AD) strategies that have raised the cost and risk to the US if it decides to intervene in a conflict close to those countries’ borders. The decreasing effectiveness of American forces in a high-end conventional conflict may also have an impact on Washington’s credibility with allies in the region.
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