Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley told a Senate defense panel Thursday during his confirmation hearing to serve as the next chairman of the joint chiefs the Pentagon must accelerate its modernization efforts to best China’s increasing investments in emerging technologies.

Milley reiterated his support for full nuclear modernization, including development of a low-yield warhead, and the creation of a Space Force, while cautioning lawmakers to avoid operating under a continuing resolution (CR) in the next fiscal year that he said would have the Pentagon move into “uncharted territory.”

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, addresses the National Guard Association of the United States 138th General Conference, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 10, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

“China is improving their military very, very rapidly in space, air, cyber, maritime, land, etc. They’re outspending us in development and procurement. You would never think that, but that they are,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We need to make sure that we do not lose our advantages that we have relative to other countries, specifically relative to China.”

Milley, who was nominated in April to succeed Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as the next Joint Chiefs chairman, echoed remarks he has made in his current role on the push to focus modernization around meeting the “changing character of war” toward “proliferation of precision weapons and military operations in highly-dense urban areas,” which require “increasingly dispersed and decentralized operations.”

The Army chief has previously pushed industry to invest in cyber and hypersonics technologies required to surpass China and Russia’s own emerging technologies (Defense Daily, June 21 2018). 

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) pressed Milley on his long-term outlook on China as a global threat, with Milley reiterating his view that Beijing’s goal is to have tools capable of defeating the U.S. by 2050. 

Milley told the panel the push to stay ahead of China would face significant setbacks if Congress is unable to pass an appropriations bill before the end of the fiscal year, forcing the Pentagon to operate under a CR .

“The price points of products and services go up because you can’t guarantee your cash flow to the industrial partner that you’re working with,” Milley said. “I think a CR in general, whether one year or one month, is a poor way to do business.”

A group of 15 Republican senators sent a letter to the White House last week urging the administration to reconsider its proposal for a year-long stopgap funding bill if current negotiations fail to reach a two-year budget deal (Defense Daily, July 3). 

Milley called modernization and recapitalization of the nuclear triad his number one priority, which he said would include the development of a low-yield nuclear warhead. 

“I think it’s an important capability to have in our arsenal in order to deal with any potential adversaries or contingency operations,” Milley said.