Transcript: Eric Edelman talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters" podcast

CBS NEWS - WASHINGTON BUREAU

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - ERIC EDELMAN

INTERVIEW WITH ERIC EDELMAN

CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MEDIA ID: 1113 INTELLIGENCE MATTERS RAW RECORDING.MP3

MICHAEL MORELL:

Eric, thanks for taking the time to be with us today. Great to have you on the show and to talk about the just released, just today report of the National Defense Strategy Commission.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Great to be here with you.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I need to start by telling our listeners that I am not an unbiased interviewer here. I myself was a member of the commission-- and a member who believes deeply in the conclusions that we reached. And I want the listeners to know that, and I want there to be full transparency here as to-- as to my bias. And to try to compensate a little bit for that, Eric, I'm gonna try to ask some questions that a critic of the report might ask, okay?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Fair enough.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I also want to note that you are one of two co-chairs of the commission. We tried to work out schedules so that your counterpart, the other co-chair, Admiral Gary Roughhead, former chief of Naval Operations, could join us today, but that didn't work out. But I wanted to note Gary's important role in the commission, and I know you want to do that as well.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Absolutely. He's been fabulous co-chair, and the-- good thing about it is, I think he and I have all through this process been very much, you know, on the same wavelength and have seen things the same way, as did you and all the other commissioners. I mean, one of the things that was really great about this experience was how not only bipartisan it was, but how nonpartisan it was.

And I think if your listeners had been able to, you know, be a fly on the wall for our deliberations over the last year-plus-- they would have had a hard time figuring out who had been nominated to this commission by Republican members of the House and Senate and who by the Democrats. Because it was a truly serious group of professionals wrestling with very difficult issues.

MICHAEL MORELL:

It's the way Washington should work.

ERIC EDELMAN:

One would hope.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay, Eric. The, perhaps the place to start is to ask, what is the National Defense Strategy Commission? And what was its charter?

ERIC EDELMAN:

So the congress going back almost 20 years has periodically appointed independent commissions to give it a second opinion on the strategies and particularly the strategy documents that the Department of Defense has produced pursuant to legislation.

So it was the case that after the end of the Cold War the Department of Defense stated producing quadrennial defense reviews. In 2010 and 2014, congress appointed a commission to review those Q.D.R. documents. And in accord with some of the recommendations that came out of the 2014 commission, the congress actually changed the legislative requirement on the Department of Defense and said, "We want you to produce not a Q.D.R. but a National Defense Strategy."

But they also appointed a commission to provide some input into that strategy from a group of national security professionals appointed by members of congress, but also then to, as with the other commissions provide them with an expert second opinion on the strategy produced by the DOD

MICHAEL MORELL:

And that was us.

ERIC EDELMAN:

And that was us.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And the report is to the congress?

ERIC EDELMAN:

It is to the congress. I mean, it is-- in the legislation, it originally was to the president and to the Secretary of Defense as well. And of course both the White House and the Department of Defense have received advanced copies of the report.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And congress has it as well?

ERIC EDELMAN:

The congress has advanced copies as well, and they have had it for several days.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And I know that you and Gary are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a few weeks.

ERIC EDELMAN:

On November 27th, we'll be testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee yet to be scheduled, but we're working on scheduling a hearing date there as well.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And the last question before we jump into the report. Where can the public find a copy of this?

ERIC EDELMAN:

The, it will be posted on the web. And-because U.S.I.P., the U.S. Institute of Peace has hosted us, I think you can look there, and you will be able to find a copy, a downloadable copy of the report.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Great. So Eric, what I'd like to do with the rest of the interview is walk through the commission's view of the state of our military. Talk about why the commission believes the situation has evolved in the way it has. And then discuss what the commission recommends we do about all of that. Does that make sense?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Absolutely.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And with that outline in mind let's dig in on where we find ourselves today. And let me start by reading four quotes from the executive summary. "First, the security and wellbeing of the United States than at any time in decades. America's military superiority has eroded to a dangerous degree. Second, many of the skills necessary to plan for and conduct military operations against capable adversaries have atrophied."

"Third, America's edge is diminishing or has disappeared in many key technologies that underpin U.S. military superiority. And fourth," and kinda the punchline, "these trends are undermining deterrents of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict. The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and the loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win or perhaps lose the war against China or Russia."

So those are stark, even grim words. Couple of questions about all of that. First is, can you give us a concrete example of the situation that we find ourselves in? Either talking about the Baltics or Taiwan or something else to put this in context for folks?

ERIC EDELMAN:

So, if I could, let me kind of pull the camera back a little bit, and because I suffer from the deficiency that I'm a recidivist on this panel. I was also on the 2010 and 2014 panel, so I watched three panels, and this one I got to be a co-chair on. But I've watched three panels wrestle with these issues over the better part of the decade.

And in the 2010 report the commission, the then independent commissioner reviewed the Q.D.R., concluded that budget cuts and an increasingly complex international environment were leading to a potential train wreck. And then in 2014 and that was, first report was before the Budget Control Act of 2011. In 2014, in the aftermath of the Budget Control Act, we said that the B.C.A. was a strategic misstep that was disabling the U.S. because it was facing greater challenges around the world. And we quoted then Secretary of Defense Hagel saying that, "Our margin of superiority vis-à-vis our potential great power competitors, Russia and China was declining."

And in this report, I think what we had to wrestle with was the consequences of all those warnings having been ignored. And so we have over a very long period of time been engaged since 9/11 and you and I were both part of this, in a very long conflict with irregular forces, with terrorist forces around the world.

We've gotten extremely good at combating those kinds of terrorist forces, and I would say the proof is in the pudding, which is since 9/11, the United States has not suffered a similar mass casualty attack of that kind. And it's not for lack of trying by our adversaries, as you yourself have written about.

In that time, however Russia and China in particular, but other actors in the international arena, particularly would be nuclear powers, a new nuclear power in North Korea and a would-be nuclear power in Iran, have studied the way that we fight and that we're prepared to fight, and have developed a suite of capabilities that are meant to in an asymmetric way be able to counter the kinds of things we can do. So, for instance, you have seen, in the case of China, the development of very robust set of capabilities. Anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles that create what strategists call-- anti-access area denial problem. What that means is that we can't fight traditionally the way we have fought which is to--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Meant to keep us away.

ERIC EDELMAN:

It's meant to keep us further away, push us further out into the Pacific, away from the Asian literal. And the way we have traditionally dealt with great power aggressors, the way we did, for instance, in the Gulf War was, the aggression occurs, and then we come in with unimpeded access, both by air and sea.

We build up a so-called iron mountain. We, you know, load up our troops, we load up our equipment, and then we go and reverse the aggression. And with Russia and China we find that they are developing capabilities precisely meant to preclude our ability to do that.

MICHAEL MORELL:

They've learned from it--

ERIC EDELMAN:

They've learned from what we've done. They've learned from our success. And while we've been off doing a different kind of warfare, they've been prepared for a kind of warfare at the high end that we really haven't engaged in for a very long time.

And which we have not been training for. And therefore our forces have not maintained the kind of proficiency that you would like to see in in that kind of warfare were it to become necessary. And where those shrinking margins might entice-- a future Russian leader or future Chinese leader to think, "I can take these actions because the Americans are unlikely to respond, because they are not as capable of responding as they once were."

MICHAEL MORELL:

You mentioned the 2010, 2014 reports-- both review panels on which you served. And I had my assistant go through both of them. And she cited exactly what you cited. A 2010 report provided quote, "an explicit warning that things were heading in the wrong direction." 2014, the warning got stronger. What really strikes me about our report is the extraordinary strong sense of urgency about where we now are.

ERIC EDELMAN:

You know, I think for a lot of reasons both the American public and members of congress have not been as attentive to this set of issues as they ought to be. One reason is, Americans in general have paid less attention to the world than other countries have historically.

And I think there's been a disposition to believe that we spend so much money on defense that, you know, obviously we should be able to deal with all comers. But what I think people have lost sight of is that the international environment has just become so much more complicated.

During the Cold War, we had one major superpower adversary. And everything else we dealt with was in some sense a lesser included case of the overall U.S.-Soviet confrontation. And that provided a kind of ordering mechanism for thinking your way through problems. Sometimes our leaders thought through them better and sometimes worse. And we weren't always successful, but at least we had a framework that made it possible to kinda go through a decision tree and make reasonable decisions about national security issues.

Today, we face both two great power challengers, one in Asia, one in Europe. We have a new nuclear power in North Korea that is developing a larger, more capable arsenal I think than almost anybody anticipated. I think most people anticipated that North Korea would develop a handful of weapons in order to hold off America's overwhelming conventional power and prevent a forcible regime change of the Kim family dynasty.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Simple deterrent on their part.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Simple deterrent. But now it looks like they're developing all the appurtenances of a nuclear triad with mobile I.C.B.M. and a submarine launched I.C.B.M. And numerical arsenal that could run as high, if you look at the higher-end calculations of where they might go in unclassified sources, could be, you know, as close to the size of the U.K.'s arsenal.

That's a different-order problem I think than most people had anticipated, which is why I hope President Trump and Secretary Pompeo and Steve Biegun, my former colleague are successful in their endeavor. I have some doubts about it, but I hope they're successful in defanging that particular threat. And then we have the threat from Iran which is destabilizing an entire region, and that's had plenty of news focused on it in the last few weeks of course.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And developing their own significant military capabilities.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Developing their own capabilities, in many ways aping a lot of these capabilities at a different context-- a Gulf context, but similar anti-access, area denial-- capabilities to try and push U.S. forces further and further away from the Gulf.

And then we have all the steady state activity that we continue to have to engage in to deal with the jihadist threat, which remains. A threat from, you know-- radical Islamist, violent extremists-- is going to be a persistent one that we're going to have to maintain an eye on as well--

MICHAEL MORELL:

So you've looked at the U.S. defense needs for a long time. Is this the worst you've seen it? Is there a comparable time in the post-war-- post-World War II period that you can think of? How does this compare?

ERIC EDELMAN:

I can't think of a time where the international security environment was as complicated as it was, and places as many potential conflicting demands on U.S. forces as this situation could, you know, in extremis inflict on us.

And I think that's one of the challenges that our colleagues in the Pentagon have had. You, they have to be prepared potentially for a fight tonight on the North-- in the Korean Peninsula with North Korea. That-- that's something they've had to be prepared for for a long time. But they now also have to be prepared for potential activities by China, whether in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, Taiwan.

They've gotta worry about Iran because of the Russian activities beginning in 2008 really, the invasion of Georgia and the annexation of Abkhazia and Ossetia. There has been a reawakening of awareness that Russia poses a threat to its neighbors.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And now Ukraine.

ERIC EDELMAN:

And now Ukraine. The seizure of Crimea and its incorporation into Russia and violation of Russia's international undertakings. And the potential threat to the Baltics, which are NATO allies and have an Article V guarantee. All of those things are things that the Department of Defense has to be prepared for while they're also out hunting and killing terrorists.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, so here's I think-- a really important question, and I know we talked about this in the commission, which is the ability to articulate why the average American should care about all this, right? You know, for many Americans, and I certainly see this traveling around the country, there's a view that the U.S. has its own problems here at home.

We should focus on those. Those should be the priority. We shouldn't pay the high price necessary to lead in the world and therefore we don't need the kind of military power we're talking about in this report. How do you respond to that?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Well, it's a fair question. And it's one that I think the national security elite, and very much this is, you know, as much self-criticism as it is criticism of anybody else, has not done a very good job of making this case to this broader public since the Cold War ended. And we tend to talk about it in terms of sort of bloodless abstractions. Like, the liberal, normative rules-based order, which doesn't mean very much to most people.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Or global stability.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Or global stability. I mean, what we're really talking about is a system of trading relationships and a system of political military alliances that, at the end of World War II, the U.S. created. And they created them to manage the world really in a way that would hopefully first-- prevent Communist power from expanding and becoming dominant, which at the end of World War II it looked like it might well do. Both in Europe and in Asia, particularly after the revolution in China in 1949.

And also to allow the international economy that had been devastated by the most costly war in history, both in lives and in treasure had laid waste the economy, both in Asia and in Europe. And the United States was largely responsible for creating a set of institutions that made it possible for trade to resume and for economic growth to occur. And it led to the so-called "European miracle," the rebirth of Europe. A prosperous, peaceful Europe instead of one that was challenging the peace of the world twice in the 20th century.

It led to the development of industrial powerhouse in Japan and then the rise of the so-called "Asian Tiger" economies. It led to the longest period of great power peace and prosperity in the history of the world. So this is really about maintaining peace and maintaining prosperity of Americans--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And U.S. military power underpins all of that.

ERIC EDELMAN:

All of that depended on the fact that the United States was the preeminent military power in the world.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And it's your view, I don't want to put words in your mouth. But it's your view that if we don't have that, and we don't lead in the world, then our prosperity will suffer. There will be conflict in the world in which we will inevitably get drawn into. And that's going to cost lives. Is that fair--

ERIC EDELMAN:

I'm glad you put the words in my mouth, because I put, couldn't have put them better. (LAUGH)

MICHAEL MORELL:

So the second issue is why we're here. You've talked a little bit about that already in terms of how our adversaries have changed and advanced and grown. But the report also talks about developments here at home. In particular what's going on in terms of the budget. Can you talk about that a little bit?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Well. Again, I think one has to-- you know, pull back the lens a little bit, because otherwise we, you know, get into the dangerous territory which we frequently do here in Washington of, you know, being like an amnesiac trying to understand, you know, how they got to where they are.

At the end of the Cold War, the United States essentially took a peace dividend. We began to cut the defense budget from the kind of high levels that we had had during the Cold War, and in one sense that was completely understandable. But it also coincided with a period in which the U.S. operational tempo for the military got a lot higher. I mean, we were intervening in Somalia. We were intervening in Bosnia. We were intervening in Kosovo. We were-dealing with lots of-- Haiti. We were dealing with lots of different challenges to order.

We were the sole superpower. It was the so-called "unipolar moment," and really nobody else could take on these challenges or organize the response, and we ended up doing it. So at the same time that we were cutting defense, the operational tempo was increasing, which meant that we were not investing in future capability. After 9/11, when we began to deal with the war on terror we ended up chewing through even more of the capital stock, the equipment-- the force structure as the Pentagon calls it-- that we had inherited, essentially from the Reagan defense buildup.

And then while we did have-- you know, some increases in defense during the years, early years of the war on terror, when the change of administrations came, there was a downturn in defense spending, which was then compounded by the Budget Control Act, which ended up cutting even more out of prospective defense budgets. And that means that we have basically been underfunding the Defense Department for quite a period of time--

MICHAEL MORELL:

This was a deal between the Obama White House and the Republicans in congress.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Right. This is, I mean there's plenty of blame to go around about this. I mean, both sides agreed to it. As my former colleague at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments now at C.S.I.S., Todd Harrison, used to like to say, "The problem with the Budget Control Act was it took the defense budget hostage," in part because President Obama thought that if he took the defense budget hostage, the Republicans in congress would agree to increase taxes.

And the Republicans in congress thought that if they held the defense budget, they could get Obama to agree to different things that they wanted in the in the budget. And as Todd used to say, "Problem is, you know, if two people take someone hostage, it usually doesn't work out well for the hostage."

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right, and certainly that's the case here. So I want to move on to what do we do about all this? But before we get to that, part of our charter as a commission was to assess how the Pentagon is thinking about this, right? To actually look at their national defense strategy and assess it. And can you talk about where we came out on that? That's kind of important.

ERIC EDELMAN:

So the Pentagon's strategy, which Secretary Mattis rolled out, first of all-- was nested beneath a national security strategy, overarching strategy that President Trump announced in December of 2017 that was prepared under General McMaster, when he was the national security advisor.

And what both those documents did and both those strategies did was raise in priority, although it had been recognized certainly by members of the previous administration, particularly Secretary Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense Carter in the Obama administration-- he recognized that we were increasingly in competition with great powers. And we were back in that kind of great power competition business with China and Russia.

The national security strategy and the national defense strategy took that insight and took it a little further and said, these are actually long-term security competitions that we're in. And they're going to really be the defining competitions of potential military conflict in the 21st century. And so we have to reprioritize, shift our priorities around a bit in the Department of Defense to focus more on those long-term challenges. And I think that's a reorientation that we on the commission I think unanimously agreed with. That is the correct focus for the, both the national security strategy and also the national defense strategy of the United States.

So I think we are largely in agreement with the objectives of the strategy. And we can talk more about the other findings we have. But the general vector that we have to be-- first of all prioritizing long-term competition with Russia and China while being mindful of these other threats that we have been discussing this morning, and which include North Korea, Iran, jihadism-- that has to be the way that the United States-- conducts itself in the world.

And in particular, that we need to maintain a balance of power in Europe, in Asia, and in the Middle East that is conducive to American interests. And that is-- I think-- a formal recognition of something that essentially has been an informal part of American grand strategy since the end of the Second World War.

MICHAEL MORELL:

The critique though, right, was while the vector is right, there's not a strong sense in the national defense strategy about how to get there.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Yes. So I think the concerns we had about the strategy-- there were several, and we could spend time on any one of them. We could probably spend a podcast on each one, but first the strategy needs to be adequately resourced. And I would, that's my personal view, I would place that first.

And in that context Secretary Mattis and Chairman Dunford, before they produced the national defense strategy testified before congress that in order to execute the strategy they had-- inherited, Secretary Mattis inherited under President Obama that was the so-called Defense Strategic Guidance of 2012, that strategy they believed was going to require additional resources for the Department of Defense beyond what the Budget Control Act caps allow.

They were talking about 3% to 5% annual real growth. I think it was our judgment that this new strategy is clearly more ambitious than the earlier strategy, which was largely just a kind of refocus towards Asia from Europe and was-actually written before Russia invaded Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and before it became completely clear where North Korea was going with its nuclear program.

So the resource level has to be commensurate with the objectives of the strategy. And we were unable I think to put an exact number. I'm not sure we would have agreed as a commission as the exact number, but we certainly could say that you need to have greater resources devoted, if you're going to execute this strategy.

And we also I think faulted, and this is not the Department of Defense's fault, but the congress and the executive branch for not taking action to get out of this Budget Control Act trap of arbitrary caps on defense and a series of continuing resolutions, rather than regular order in budgeting, so that the Department of Defense can have predictable, appropriate funding to execute the strategy. That was the first gap we saw.

The second gap I think we identified is that, there was-- it wasn't clear from the strategy itself what kinds of operational concepts we would use in the future to fight these more able competitors. And therefore, we were directing in essence the congress to say, "This is one area where your oversight responsibilities are important." You need to be.

MICHAEL MORELL:

This is the how to fight.

ERIC EDELMAN:

This is the how to fight piece, and you need to be pressing the Department of Defense to tell you what kind of novel, creative ways, because even if you get all the funding that we would want, even-- I probably, maybe I and one or two other commissioners would probably be at the high end of what we would be willing to spend on defense among the commissioners. That even if I got everything I would want-- that's not gonna be enough. We are also gonna have to fight differently, fight smarter, and we are base--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Exactly what the Chinese and Russians are doing, right?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Exactly, we gotta-- we've gotta match the kind of intellectual fire power they're bringing to the problem with that kind of fire power of our own, and we were directing the congress to say, "This is where you ought to be holding the Department of Defense's feet to the fire to make sure that that the strategy is executable."

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So on the resource piece-- 3% to 5% real growth is a huge dollar figure over a period of years. And we did not take a position on where that money should come from. But stepping out of your role as the co-chair of this thing, where is that money gonna come from?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Well, we do address some of the issues that-- that are raised by the resource question. First, if you look at the long-term budget projections of the Congressional Budget Office, the C.B.O., it's very clear what's driving the long-term deficits. And that is, the entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

That makes up the bulk of it. Defense is, you know, part of the so-called discretionary budget that congress gets to play with. And it's only about 25% of that budget. Yet it's been varying under the B.C.A. 50%, you know, of the cuts. Clearly, I think where this money has to come from is some combination of reform of entitlements and revenue.

And speaking personally I'm willing to bear a higher tax burden in order to make sure that the, we can defend the United States. I think it's the first obligation that the constitution imposes on the congress, which is to provide for the common defense, which is part of our title.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, and at the end of the day, it's part of the responsibility of the leaders of the country, both the president and the congress to make the case to the American people why that's important.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Why that's important, exactly. And we talked about that.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You know, we spend some time talking about technology and the fact that the rest of the world has caught up. Critically with regard to technologies that are important to the military. And there's a very interesting line in our report that recommends, and I'll quote here, "pursuing selective economic disintegration with rivals to avoid dangerous dependencies." What does that mean? What does that look like?

ERIC EDELMAN:

So one of the things that-- you know, has become clear and which we delved into as part of our deliberations was the degree to which the supply chain for the major defense contractors who provide the weaponry and the equipment for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, the men and women of all of our military services have dependency on-- in particular on things made in China.

MICHAEL MORELL:

This is a consequence of globalization and?

ERIC EDELMAN:

Yeah, this is not anybody's fault. This is just-- you know, a consequence of.

MICHAEL MORELL:

How the world economy works.

ERIC EDELMAN:

The world economy works, the law of comparative advantage and labor rates and the comparative labor rates, what have you. But we want to make, we need to make sure we have to as a country make sure we don't find ourselves in a position where one of our adversaries could throw a monkey wrench into our ability to defend ourselves.

And so we may have to do some things that would, you know, require us maybe to not buy the cheapest product but the one that we have the most control over, in order to prevent that you know, from happening. And I think that's-- I'm glad you highlighted that, because I think that's something that hasn't gotten as much attention as it should. But there's a whole--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And something that's going to require private sector understanding at the end of the day.

ERIC EDELMAN:

That's a very important point. You know, we, in-- in the Cold War era-- a lot of commercial development came on the back of, you know, military technical development. So I mean when you and I were growing up, you know -- Tang was a product that came out of the space program. You know, sort of a freeze-dried orange juice that you could stir into a glass of water, which had been originally produced for astronauts.

I mean, so a lot of commercial aviation grew on the back of the military. And that's now reversed-- particularly because of the importance of information technology. And so the Department of Defense and the military are going to be much more dependent on the commercial world.

And we've already seen instances where there has been some resistance on parts of the tech community to working with the U.S. government and particularly the Department of Defense, of people objecting to companies bidding on the DoD Cloud for instance, or opposing participation in the DoD so-called Maven program. Those are issues that we're going to have to wrestle with as a society.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And-- maybe this is a good place to-- I just want to ask two more questions about the report, and maybe this is a great place to ask the first one. This is not just DoD's issue. Right? This is, and-- in some cases it's not even just the federal government's issue. This is a whole of government, a whole of society issue when you think about education, when you think about this private sector-government relationship that has to happen here. So this is not just the Defense Department at the end of the day.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Well, I couldn't agree more. So first, the strategy, the national defense strategy, national security strategy argued that we have these long-term competitions with Russia and China that the United States has to position itself to be able to prevail in.

But I think we as a commission were impressed by the fact that we're actually not just in competition with these countries. In some areas like cyber, we're actually in conflict with them every day. And that's ongoing, and it's happening now. And a lot of those competitions, this goes on in the so-called "gray zone--" whether it's a functional or geographic gray zone. A lot of that competition is not particularly the province of the Department of Defense.

I mean, in some cases, it's because China relies on so-called private fishing fleet or maritime militias that are not military. They're more sort of police forces that are not strictly speaking, you know, a counterpart to our military forces. And so a lot of these activities are not things that are necessarily in the Department of Defense's gambit. They're either part of the intelligence community, the State Department, other departments of the government treasury, et cetera.

So you're right, and this is going to take a whole of government effort. And I'm glad you said whole of society, because some of the challenges we face, particularly as new technologies come online, and I have in mind things like hypersonics and artificial intelligence-- quantum computing, areas where Russia and China, particularly China are putting enormous amount of effort into. And that's going to require commensurate effort from the United States. And a lot of that's going to rest on our educational system, not just the Department of Defense.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. So just one more question Eric, aand maybe it's a little unfair.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Those are the best kind.

MICHAEL MORELL:

But given everything you just talked about, are you optimistic or pessimistic that the United States as a nation, that incoming congress, future congresses, current administration, future administrations are going to get this right?

ERIC EDELMAN:

It's-- I am by nature and have always been a very optimistic person. And certainly when you look at the history of the United States, we have been an incredibly resilient nation. Overcoming a devastating Civil War that, you know, cost 600,000 lives. Overcoming the history of slavery and racial bigotry that marked our country.

We've made enormous strides as a nation. And coming back from the Great Depression, winning the Second World War with the greatest generation. So we've historically been very resilient and able to come back from either setbacks or defeats of one sort or another. So I hope that we will be able to rise to this challenge, which is as we've been discussing a serious challenge and a complicated challenge.

You know, one thing that gives me a little bit of hope is the way our own commission operated. As you said at the outset, you know, this is the way you would want, you know, Washington to work, which is for the good of the country with party not really being a factor. And it's there that I have my greatest worries about whether we will again rise to this challenge and continue our history of national resilience.

And that is, that our political institutions have become more brittle-- and more tribal. And I hope that we can move beyond that so that the country can come together. I noted with some interest that a number of the new members of the House who were elected in the election on Tuesday have military service in their backgrounds.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And intelligence.

ERIC EDELMAN:

And intelligence. And-- exactly, and so I'm hoping that that new cohort will bring to it a country before party approach that will help us get through this very difficult period that we're going to be heading into.

MICHAEL MORELL:

That's going to be necessary to get done.

ERIC EDELMAN:

All the things we've talked about--

MICHAEL MORELL:

All the things we've talked about. Eric, thank you so much for joining us. It's going to be fascinating to see what kind of attention the report gets.

ERIC EDELMAN:

Thank you so much for having me in today. And I look forward to working with you and other commissioners to try and make people understand what we, what kind of challenge we have ahead of us. It's a big one.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Thank you.