VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Rob Engelhardt, senior naval intelligence manager for China and East Asia at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in Suitland, Maryland, visited Information Warfare Training Command Virginia Beach (IWTC) Virginia Beach, to discuss the current strategic situation with China and hold a question and answer session with the students of the school house on May 25.
Peer competitors have been the primary focus of the Department of Defense as it continues to shift from the war on terrorism to long-term strategic competition, specifically with China as the leading competitor.
As the 2022 National Defense Strategy states, China is the “only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order […] and […] become the world’s leading power” with the necessary tools and power to do so. With that in mind, ONI has sought to increase the level of dialogue on strategic competition and the Chinese problem set amongst accession-level naval information warfare students.
Following a brief introduction, Engelhardt began the gathering with a bit of levity, questioning the knowledge of the students with photographs of Chinese submarines, warships, and aircraft. The students set the tone for the afternoon by meeting the mark during the opening quiz. The remainder of the brief took on a note of seriousness. Engelhardt discussed a myriad of topics ranging from a strategic view of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Chinese military order of battle, competitive advantages of both the United States and China, the various domains and threats of the Chinese military, China’s increasing level of pressure on Taiwan in its quest for reunification, and Chinese operations and facilities across the world.
Engelhardt honed in on the strategic reality that the United States faces with respect to China. He stated that China’s long-term goal is to “overtake the United States […] as a superpower by 2049,” the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 1949, as China seeks to change the international order the United States created following World War II. Engelhardt also focused a portion of his presentation on a hypothetical Taiwan conflict, describing a war with China over Taiwan as the “most consequential, potential conflict” for the United States since World War II. He described the United States’ posture with respect to Taiwan as a “race for deterrence” and the “central issue to the United States military” currently. In a fitting conclusion to the presentation that focused on China’s relentless desire to match the United States as a superpower, and project power and influence around the world.
Engelhardt concluded his time speaking by asking the audience “Where is the [People’s Liberation Army] going next?”
The session ended with a brief question and answer period. Students posed a variety of questions that revolved around Chinese aviation training, air-to-air refueling, whether the United States is being outpaced by China, and Chinese influence in and around the Suez Canal.
IWTCVB currently offers 74 courses of instruction in information technology, cryptology, and intelligence with an instructor and support staff of over 300 military, civilian, and contract members who train over 7,000 students yearly at five training sites. It is one of four schoolhouses for the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) and also oversees learning sites at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Jacksonville and Mayport, Florida; Kings Bay, Georgia; and Groton, Connecticut.