US Military Has Bipartisan Support to Regain Indo-Pacific Dominance to Deter China

April 9, 2020 Updated: April 9, 2020

News Analysis

The U.S. military has bipartisan support to fund a $20 billion radical transformation of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines “lethality” to regain Indo-Pacific dominance, and to deter Chinese military threat in the region.

Congress for the first time on a bipartisan basis, inserted language into Section 1253 of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the military to report on funding needs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to deter Chinese military action in the region.

The new report titled “Regain the Advantage” states that the U.S. Department of Defense has made the Indo-Pacific region the military’s “priority theater.”

Within ten days of taking office in January 2017, President Trump ordered the Pentagon to immediately review the Defense Department’s readiness to win a conventional air-land battle in the Indo-Pacific region.

Over the next three years, the RAND Corporation think tank ran a series of Pentagon-sponsored wargame simulations to judge the outcome of non-nuclear conflict between the United States, colored blue on maps, and the combined forces of China and Russia, colored red. RAND Senior International/Defense Researcher David Ochmanek told Breaking Defense in March 2019 that in each of the annual wargames, “blue gets its ass handed to it.”

When former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work was asked how this could happen when the United States spends of $700 billion each year on the newest and most technically advanced weapons systems on the planet, he responded: “the F-35 [fighter] rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

The RAND wargames demonstrated that China and Russia have passed the United States in long-range missiles and the “smart” sensors, communications networks, and command systems to guide them at big American airbases and big aircraft carriers.

A key reason that America has lost competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific is due to the signing of the 1987 Cold War Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF treaty banned the United States and Russia from developing missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,400 miles. But China, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea—as non-signatories—have all developed such missiles. Russia has cheated to develop and field its SSC-8.

China has thousands of relatively cheap intermediate range missiles to potentially harass U.S. aircraft carriers and naval fortresses, such as Guam.

In October 2019, China publicly unveiled the world’s first operational hypersonic glide vehicle, the D-17 “carrier killer,” just two months after the United States announced its official withdrawal from the INF Treaty.

Bipartisan support for militarily confronting China was on full display with the Senate’s super-majority 87-to-10 vote to pass the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that stated: “China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage.”

The breadth of support for militarily challenging China has expanded to all aspects of economics, culture, and religion, according to an April 8 Politico column that states: “If any foreign policy change is emerging in the post-coronavirus era, it’s the desire to tangle with and inch away from China.”

Politico reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is cracking down on Chinese espionage, and that Congress is intent on demanding the ‘Phase Four’ economic stimulus bill to begin shifting medical supply chains away from China.

The New York Times reported that the CIA is investigating under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in China.

The $20 billion “Regain the Advantage” plan submitted to Congress by U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. Phil Davidson lists investing $5.85 billion in “Joint Force Lethality” as his “number one unfunded priority.”

Davidson wants to harden America’s First Island Chain that stretches across the Western Pacific with new high-frequency radars and long-range missiles to “reverse any anti-access and aerial-denial capabilities intended to limit U.S. freedom of action or access to vital waterways and airspace.”