The document reflects persistent U.S. worries about China's military build-up in the South China Sea, its moves to expand its political and economic influence around the globe, and what has always been described as Beijing's systematic campaign of cyberattacks and data theft from government agencies and private United States corporations.
He added: "The secretary also believes that we've been in strategy free environment for a long time".
"Though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we're engaged in today, the great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of USA national security", Mattis said in his opening statements at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
He declared the defeat of the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria, but warned that ISIS, al-Qaida and other extremists continue as threats across the globe.
Mattis repeated his call for America to work closely with allies and partners - an approach that aligns more closely with previous administrations than President Donald Trump's "America First" ideas.
The Pentagon on Friday released an unclassified, 11-page version of the document, which did not provide details on how the shift towards countering China and Russian Federation would be carried out.
"We have also continued to make clear that the United States will no longer tolerate economic aggression or unfair trading practices".
"They'll suck it up, and they'll say, 'OK, ' " Mattis said.
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The new defense strategy was written at the same time as the national security strategy that President Trump released in December, and flows from the president's vision of "peace through strength, " Colby said. It also says the US will seek to "form enduring coalitions in the Middle East" and expand Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships.
"We've been doing a lot of things in the last 25 years, and we've been focused on really other problems and this strategy really represents a fundamental shift to say, look, we have to get back, in a sense, to basics of the potential for war", said Elbridge Colby, the deputy assistant defence secretary for strategy. "That's all correct, just seemed to be at variance with what's happening elsewhere in the government, including the White House". "What it says is in the national defense strategy, we don't address it", Shanahan said.
Asked whether he could provide examples of efforts that already have shifted or changed, Colby said he did not think so.
"Rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran are destabilizing regions through their pursuit of nuclear weapons or sponsorship of terrorism", according to the report, which called out the government in Tehran for its ballistic missile program and exports.
"We expect European allies to fulfill their commitments to increase defense and modernization spending to bolster the alliance in the face of our shared security concerns", Mattis said, in reference to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries paying more into their defense budgets.
"Our military is still strong, yet our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare - air, land, sea, space and cyberspace - and is continually eroding", he added.
Mattis said the modernization of China's military over the past two decades as well as Russia's advantages coupled with the U.S fighting its longest war in the nation's history have led to loss of a competitive advantage.
"As I stand here this morning, watching the news off the Hill, we're on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, yet another debilitating continuing resolution", Mattis said, adding that such continuing resolutions wasted "copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars". They're still constrained by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put mandatory spending caps in place.
The document is likely to be greeted warmly by those interested in spending more money on the military and skeptically by those who note the Pentagon often puts together new documents outlining strategy, only to disregard them later. Congress has repeatedly rejected additional base closings.