Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin listens to a reporter's question while addressing the media following talks at the German Defense Ministry on April 13, 2021, in Berlin.
Honolulu CNN  — 

In his first major policy speech, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin laid out a vision of warfare starkly different from how “the last of the old wars” of the past two decades were fought, urging the military to move toward a faster, more innovative approach capable of acting at the “speed of war.”

Austin stressed the importance of emerging technology and the rapid increases in computing power to push the military into the future – and away from the more traditional wars of the Middle East fought on conventional battlefields.

“Galloping advances in technology mean changes in the work we do to keep the United States secure across all five domains of potential conflict – not just air, land and sea, but also space and cyberspace,” Austin said, speaking Friday afternoon at the change of command for US Indo-Pacific Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “They mean we need new capacities and operational flexibility for the fights of the future.”

Austin’s speech hardly mentioned any specific ally or adversary, but the impetus behind the secretary’s remarks was clearly a rapidly modernizing and increasingly aggressive China intent on spreading its influence in the western Pacific – and more willing to act against the US in cyberspace.

“What we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities – all woven together in a networked way that is so credible, flexible and formidable that it will give any adversary pause,” Austin said. “We need to create advantages for us and dilemmas for them.”

The secretary, who rose in the ranks fighting the wars of the Middle East, put forward a new paradigm of deterrence across all domains of warfare. It will rely on investing in cutting-edge technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence, Austin said, concepts that have little to do with fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria or the Taliban in Afghanistan but are a critical element of deterrence against China.

Though Austin didn’t explicitly mention China, the outgoing commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip Davidson, speaking after Austin, issued a blunt assessment of the state of affairs.

“The strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific is not between our two nations, it is a competition between liberty –