US Military Bases Unprepared for Rising Threats From Communist China

US Military Bases Unprepared for Rising Threats From Communist China
An F-5N Tiger II aircraft, based out of Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., on Sept. 11, 2019. (Toiete Jackson/U.S. Navy photo)
John Mills
6/6/2024
Updated:
6/10/2024
0:00
Commentary
FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Security Agency Director Gen. Timothy Haugh have stated that the recent Chinese cyber assault on America’s critical infrastructure is preparation for conflict with the United States.

In the face of these indicators and warnings, a wartime posture of dispersing forces across new and different sites, hardening facilities (with more guards and missile defenses), and actively camouflaging the dispersed and hardened locations would be prudent. By operating Department of Defense (DOD) facilities in a wartime manner, a strong message of readiness and deterrence would be communicated.

However, the spirit of Army Lt. Gen. Walter Short and Navy Adm. Husband E. Kimmel seems to have prevailed so far.

In February 1941, Short and Kimmel arrived in Hawaii to take over the Army and Navy forces. In what has been characterized in hindsight as a major strategic error of judgment, in the face of rising tensions with Japan, they dismissed a wartime posture of dispersing, hardening, and camouflaging military sites. Instead, they both chose to guard their forces by administratively grouping the ships and planes to guard them. This deadly mistake ensured the aircraft and ships of the Army and Navy were much easier to attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
History seems to be repeating itself. Dealing with rising tensions with the Chinese regime, little if any DOD wartime posture actions have been communicated or detected that should have been triggered by Chinese spy balloons, suspicious foreign land purchases, a pervasive cyber assault on U.S. critical infrastructure, and military facilities experiencing a surge of active penetration attempts by foreign nationals, often from China—including a recent revelation of a Chinese national flying a drone to spy on U.S. submarine construction.

Ominous ‘Dry Run’ Attempt to Enter a DOD Facility

Two Jordanians made the most recent attempt to enter a DOD site, gaining entry into Quantico Marine Corps Base. The pair said they were “Amazon subcontractors” attempting to make a delivery. The two Jordanians were stopped after Marine gate guards deployed a vehicle denial barrier to block their path. The Jordanians were arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They have been determined to be non-U.S. citizens, and one of them is reported to be on the terrorist watch list.
Local reporter Kelly Sienkowski, who broke the original story, followed up with a story on May 16 titled “ICE confirms attack on Quantico; Ignores questions on terrorist threat.” Quantico has Marine training facilities, but it is also the home base to the Presidential Helicopter Squadron, Drug Enforcement Agency offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, and the very important FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), which the agency refers to as “federal law enforcement’s only full-time counterterrorism unit.”
The HRT is a very important asset in responding to domestic terrorist events, such as Chinese special operators carrying out attacks within the United States. One former Quantico staffer reportedly characterized the attempted breach at Quantico as a “dry run.”

An Intent to Disrupt Space Launches, US Readiness?

A focus of the Chinese efforts has been in Florida, where Chinese nationals have attempted to enter Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Key West Naval facilities.

Cape Canaveral has two parts: the well-known Kennedy Space Center, which focuses on civil space activities, and the not-as-well-known Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which focuses on classified military and intelligence space activities. The Chinese were found scuba diving right off the launch pads on the facilities. From where they were caught, the scuba divers could have used sniper rifles or rockets to damage or destroy space launch activities.

In Key West, Florida, three Chinese nationals were convicted in 2020 for attempting to enter the Navy facilities. The Navy facilities are about 90 miles north of the Chinese spy base in Lourdes, Cuba, revealed in 2023. The Chinese Key West operation could have assessed U.S. readiness to detect and respond to the stealth expansion of Chinese spy and military activities in Cuba and the Chinese influence operations in the Bahamas.

Hardening Efforts Begin, but Force Dispersion, Camouflage Needed

At the height of the Cold War, U.S. bases in Europe were greatly dispersed, hardened, and camouflaged to protect them from Soviet special forces raids or aircraft and missile strikes. Hardened and camouflaged facilities were everywhere, and repelling a Soviet Spetsnaz attack was a very real scenario that was taken very seriously.
The “Pacific Pivot” was started in 2010. Thirteen years later, it is hard to see any manifestation of wartime readiness in the Pacific or anywhere in the DOD. Congress has finally noticed this and is forcing the DOD to explain why China has built 400 hardened aircraft shelters in the past 10 years while the DOD has built only 22. DOD press photos routinely show Air Force aircraft neatly lined up at Pacific bases, much like 1941 pre-attack Hawaii (although a number of these photos have been taken down).

The DOD should ensure all of the airfields in the Pacific and even some in the continental United States have hardened shelters for all aircraft, fuel depots, ammunition storage, crew quarters, command centers, and other critical facilities. Facilities such as Anderson Air Force Base in Guam have a significant concentration of aircraft. Additional bases should be constructed. A new air base close to Tinian is being developed, but more are needed.

In the continental United States, all of the Navy’s fighter/attack aircraft are in one location, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California—close to where the mysterious Chinese national-operated “bio-warfare” lab was discovered. This high concentration of aircraft should be sent to several new bases.

Finally, like in World War II, when “faux” cities were built over aircraft factories, generous camouflaging should be deployed to make the hardened, dispersed bases more resilient and ready.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Col. (Ret.) John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now, Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. Mr. Mills is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. He is author of “The Nation Will Follow” and “War Against the Deep State.” ColonelRETJohn on Substack, GETTR, and Truth Social