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Huntsville is a familiar stomping ground for the Pentagon’s chief of acquisition.

Early in his Army career, Frank Kendall was assigned to Redstone Arsenal as the aide de camp to retired Gen. Grayson Tate at what is today the Space and Missile Defense Command. Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, returned to the Rocket City Aug. 12 as the keynote speaker for the 2015 Space and Missile Defense Dinner, part of the 18th annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium.

“Professionally, I grew up here,” Kendall told the crowd assembled in the Von Braun Center’s North Hall. “I really got my professional, technical management education here in Huntsville.”

Kendall returned with a sobering message for the defense industry professionals in attendance.

“Our presumed superiority is being challenged … in a way which I have not seen since the Cold War,” he said.

Kendall said current changes in Russia’s nuclear doctrine and the rampant growth of China’s defense budget put the United States’ posture at risk.

“China is increasing their defense budget by about 10 percent a year,” he said. “They are only worried about one other problem and that is us. We are worried about a lot of other problems beside China.”

When comparing China’s increasing focus on defense modernization to the United States budgetary shortfalls and sequestration, the situation becomes increasingly grave, according to Kendall.

“I am very concerned that we have not found our way out of this mess,” he said. “The level of funding that sequestration brings us to is well below the level needed to defend the country. … Sequestration is destroying our planning process.”

He said the Department of Defense can be more efficient with spending but “there isn’t enough there to correct this fundamental disconnect we have between the needs we face and the budgets that we might receive. It is a problem that cannot be solved with efficiency initiatives.”

Kendall said that with the current budgetary reality, DoD is facing the dilemma of trying to achieve balance between current problems and future problems globally. He said the Pentagon is always looking for strategies to counteract those problems and give defense “the next leap forward.”

“I have never lived in a world in which the United States is the second best nuclear power and I don’t ever want to live in that world,” Kendall said. “And I don’t think any of you do either.”

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