Thornberry Wants $6 Billion to Deter Chinese Military Presence in Indo-Pacific

April 16, 2020 Updated: April 16, 2020

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) of the House Armed Services Committee wants the Department of Defense (DoD) to launch a new program to enhance the United States’ ability to limit the Chinese communist regime’s military power in the Indo-Pacific region.

As the committee’s ranking member, Thornberry released an updated proposal laying out the an Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative (IPDI), modeled after the European Deterrence Initiative—a DoD program set up to counter Russian military aggression in Europe.

“Senior officials from both [political] parties, military commanders, and international security experts have told us for years that the Indo-Pacific must be this country’s priority theater,” Thornberry said in a statement summarizing the proposal.

“They are absolutely correct, and it is time to put our money where our mouth is.”

The congressman, in draft legislation released Thursday, called for $6.09 billion in funding for FY2021 for the IPDI. The funding would strengthen activities that the United States and its allied and partner countries are already conducting in the Indo-Pacific theater, as well as build on the Indo-Pacific Command’s investment plan that was delivered to Congress last month, he said.

The money would be spent on “enhancing missile defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs, infrastructure, prepositioned equipment and munitions, logistics, training and exercises,” according to the statement.

While the United States has been mired in the war on terror in the Middle East, China’s military spending has increased around tenfold, according to many estimates.

The Trump administration’s 2018 National Defense strategy warned that China has already set the course for a renewed “great power competition,” sparking a modernization push for a depleted U.S. military. The strategy also outlined risks from Russia, which along with China, has been chipping away at the post-Cold War supremacy of the U.S. military for decades.

While China has eroded the dominance of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific by building up an array of long-range missiles and anti-aircraft measures over the last decade, the U.S. military under the Trump administration is now scrambling to play catch up in the new strategic landscape.

Thornberry said the proposal would increase U.S. presence in the region, and improve joint force lethality, for example by funding a land-based combined air and missile defense system on Guam and allocating funding for a “homeland defense radar” in Hawaii.

The proposal would also look to improve prepositioning and logistics, and increase funding for infrastructure in the region.

“These are not all new programs, but by pulling them together under one policy we will be better able to judge our own commitment here at home, demonstrate our resolve to our allies and partners, and deter China.

“We may not be able to cover all of these programs this year, but it is important that we make a start, and then use this legislation to measure our progress going forward,” Thornberry said.

“America’s fortunes will be greatly influenced by what happens in the Indo-Pacific region. It would be fitting if we mark this milestone by implementing a new strategic approach to this vital part of the world.”

Simon Veazey Contributed to this report.