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President Joe Biden speaks as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vice President Kamala Harris accompany him at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vice President Kamala Harris accompany him at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Washington. (Alex Brandon, Pool /AP)

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon task force will review the department’s military and national security approach toward China, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday during his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief.

The task force will “provide a baseline assessment of DoD policies, programs, and processes on China-related matters and provide the secretary of defense recommendations on key priorities and decision points to meet the China challenge,” according to a Pentagon fact sheet.

“It will require a whole of government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress and strong alliances and partnerships. That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future,” Biden said during the speech to Defense Department personnel.

Before his speech, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Defense Secretary Llyod Austin and other senior military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon, and Biden spoke to them about his national security priorities.

The Pentagon has been focused on China’s growing influence in the world for the past several years. The 2018 National Defense Strategy established under the Trump administration shifted the military’s focus from counterterrorism operations to “great power competition” with China and Russia. China’s modernization of its military and push for greater regional and international influence are major concerns for the U.S. military, according to the National Defense Strategy.

The 15-person “Department of Defense China Task Force,” will be comprised of military and civilian DoD employees from Austin’s office, the Joint Staff, combatant commands, the intelligence community and the military services, according to the fact sheet. It will be led by Ely Ratner, special assistant to the defense secretary and an expert on China.

The task force will study several topics including force posture, defense relations with China, U.S. alliances and partnerships, intelligence and operational concepts, according to the fact sheet.

The Pentagon’s review is part of a larger look by the administration at how the U.S. government handles China. The task force’s recommendations will be aligned with other agencies, so the Pentagon continues to support “the whole-of-government approach toward China,” according to the fact sheet.

The task force will submit its final findings by June to Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

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