“… While Michèle Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2012, sees a greater focus on China as a wise move, she worries about the unexpected effects of creating a new office.

“‘I’ve found, in general, that whenever it has a problem, the first tool DoD reaches for is “let’s reorganize the boxes on the chart.” Every time you do that, you create new seams, and then you have to compensate,’ she said. As an alternative, she pointed to a senior-level working group formed during her time at the Pentagon that focused on China without creating new structures.

“The new DASD position runs the risk of creating a focus on China that ignores regional allies and partners who will play a major role in attempts to shift China’s behavior, Flournoy said. Given the lack of real interaction or cooperation between the Chinese and U.S. militaries, the DASD spot may not be the best tool for the job, she added.

“Still, ‘if you want someone whose whole job every day is to try and rally the department’s resources and reach across all the different services and Joint Staff to make sure we’re all rowing in the same direction, I get it,’ she said — assuming the role communicates with the other regional experts and assuming a good staff is assembled.

“‘You need some China hands in there, but you also need to know what the [planning] office is doing and have it be very tightly linked to [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] planning. You need people with backgrounds in strategy, security cooperation,’ she said. ‘It has to be a different kind of staff than you would typically have in a regional DASD office if it’s going to be effective…’”

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