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Biden announces creation of Defense Department China task force

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President Biden, in remarks at his first visit to the Pentagon as commander-in-chief, announced the creation of a China Task Force to assess Defense Department strategies to meet the challenges posed by China. 

The task force, which will be led by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Dr. Ely Ratner, will include up to 15 civilian and uniformed Defense Department employees. It will review strategy, operational concepts, technology and force structure, as well as defense relations with China. 

"It will require a whole of government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress and strong relations and partnerships," Biden said. "That's how we'll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future." 

The task force has four months to prepare recommendations for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who introduced both Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Austin and Mr. Biden reflected on the service of Beau Biden who, when he was a captain in the Delaware National Guard, served under Austin's command in Iraq. Austin referred to the Biden family as a military family who understands sacrifice. Biden said it's the honor of his life to serve as commander-in-chief. 

Both Mr. Biden and Vice President Harris in their remarks paid tribute to African-American service members, past and present. Biden vowed to ensure everyone is treated with respect. 

"Right now, more than 40% of our active-duty forces are people of color, and it's long past time that the full diversity and full strength of our force is reflected at every level in this department, Biden said. Austin is the first Black defense secretary.

The visit comes a week after Austin directed commanders to schedule a date for a "stand down" to address extremism in the ranks. The Pentagon was alarmed to find veterans and active-duty personnel participated in the January 6 riot at the Capitol that resulted in the deaths of five people.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a briefing assault on the Capitol was "a wake-up call."

The military, too, has seen racist incidents within its ranks in the past few weeks.

The chief of naval operations has condemned two recent extremist incidents. Graffiti was found in a bathroom of the USS Carl Vinson, and on the USS Lake Champlain, a sailor found a noose on his bunk. Both incidents are under investigation, according to a statement this week from Admiral Michael Gilday.  

Contributing: David Martin and Mary Walsh

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