House Panel Aims to Confront China With $6 Billion in New Defense Spending

April 20, 2020 Updated: April 21, 2020

News Analysis

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee has bipartisan support to accelerate up to $6.1 billion in funding for the Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative (IPDI) to challenge China’s aggression.

When U.S. Adm. Philip Davidson warned in December 2019 that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road) was a shrewd tactic that combined political, economic, or military pressure to undermine Indo-Pacific sovereignty, he indicated that Congress was still tentative about funding a response.

But anger over the Chinese regime’s dishonesty and attempts to shift blame for the COVID-19 pandemic has generated bipartisan congressional support “to put our money where our mouth is,” according to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has consistently argued for a multi-level plan—similar to the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) passed in 2014 to deter Russian aggression after its annexing of Crimea—to challenge China’s persistently aggressive actions in the eastern Pacific and Indian oceans.

Smith lobbied his committee to include Section 1253 language in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to require the Pentagon to report back to Congress by mid-March with an analysis of the need for some form of IDPI.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s declassified response stated that U.S. military forces would need $1.6 billion for the 2021 fiscal year budget, and another $18.5 billion over the following five years to “regain the advantage” over China in the region.

The major spending priorities necessary to “persuade potential adversaries that any preemptive military action will be extremely costly and likely fail” include $5.85 billion for Joint Force Lethality; $5.9 billion for Force Design and Posture; $384 million to Strengthen Allies; $2.87 billion for Exercises and Innovation; and $5.11 billion for logistics.

Thornberry on April 16 called for $6.09 billion in IPDI funding for the fiscal year that begins in October 2021, reflecting on Congress’ growing motivation to confront the Chinese regime.

“This effort consolidates and funds the policies, infrastructure, and platforms needed to reassure our allies and partners, while we deter China,” Thornberry told Defense News.

Thornberry’s bill would spend $2.1 billion for various military construction projects; $1 billion for training; $819 million to buy and forward preposition munitions; $312.8 million for the Missile Defense Agency; $162 million for improved Hawaiian homeland defense radar; and $77 million to harden frontline air and missile defense system on Guam.

Also due to the growing congressional distrust of China’s intentions, the bill would also fund another $378.5 million for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, while pledging $350 million to assist U.S. allies and partners with new counter-terrorism efforts by modernizing communications architecture and systems.

Smith is pleased that Thornberry supports the creation of an Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative and will “gladly consider” bipartisan policy suggestions that avoid gimmicks and “effectively support our national security,” Smith’s spokesperson Monica Matoush said.