Austin holds first meeting with DOD China Task Force

By John Liang / March 1, 2021 at 3:20 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held his first meeting today with members of the Pentagon's new China Task Force.

President Biden announced the creation of the task force, intended to review the U.S. military's strategy for countering Beijing, last month during his first official visit to the Pentagon.

The task force, led by Defense Department adviser Ely Ratner, a longtime Biden aide and China specialist, 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 DOD fact sheet released the day of the announcement.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters during a briefing earlier today that Austin is "providing some initial guidance to an outstanding team of 20 civilian and military experts from across the department, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, each of the armed services, combatant commands and intelligence community."

Today's meeting is "intended to formalize the mission, timing and outputs of the task force," according to Kirby. "As a reminder, this is what we're calling a 'sprint effort' that will conclude in less than four months."

Ratner said last month the task force will not be crafting policy, but will likely tee up areas that require the attention of Austin or other Pentagon leaders, along with evaluating whether DOD is properly supporting the Biden administration's overall approach to China.