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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Pentagon cites a costly ‘challenge’ from Russia and China

Investor Peter Thiel’s company wins a big U.S. Army contract

Undersecretary for Defense John Rood warned the House Armed Services Committee last week that the future ambitions of China and Russia form the “central challenge to our prosperity and security.”

Rood cited “the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition by revisionist powers in China and Russia.” That is, he said, “both China and Russia seek to reshape the world order and change territorial borders.”

“Consequently, they pose increasing security threats to us, our allies and our partners,” Rood testified.

Of course, what some may dismiss as Cold War nostalgia serves a practical role in Capitol Hill budget debates — justifying a defense budget that is now slated in 2019 to reach $686 billion.

The Trump administration plan advances an expensive updating of the nation’s nuclear capabilities by land, sea and air. It also hikes supports arming for any conventional wars.

As always, the enormous procurements will produce economic and financial winners and losers.

In other defense news, billionaire investor Peter Thiel’s Palantir Technologies, in tandem with Raytheon, has won a hard-fought contract to provide software to the Army.

The firm beat out seven other proposals for a decadelong, $876 million contract, according to Bloomberg News.

Thiel is viewed as increasingly influential in Washington, having been the most prominent supporter of candidate Donald Trump among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. He also successfully sued to force the Pentagon to change its bid process.

In this case, the contract award involves the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System. DCGS is designed to process and distribute battlefield intelligence information in helping to deploy weapons.

For perspective, the United States has led other nations in defense spending for a long time. The budget total was $581 billion in 2014, with the eight next-highest spenders combined spending about $531.9 billion, according to figures cited by PolitiFact.

Also, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on Monday released data showing U.S. arms exports grew 25 percent over the five years ending in 2017 — extending the nation’s lead as the world’s biggest source of munitions.

Exports to the Middle East and Asia led the increase, the report said.

Meanwhile, the behavior of China and Russia — not to mention so-called rogue states North Korea and Iran — has helped justify the U.S. military expenses.

Two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin used an animated video of unlimited range nuclear warheads targeting the United States to tout his country’s own new hardware.

Barely a week later, the Chinese government announced its military budget would increase 8.1 percent this year to $175 billion.

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