“It’s clear to me that if we went to war in the Taiwan Strait tomorrow, we’d probably lose,” Gallagher said. “It’s also clear to me that the threat horizon for the Taiwan scenario is growing more near by the day.”
Gallagher, who has previously served as a U.S. Marines intelligence officer, made the comments during a webinar on strategic competition, hosted by the Project 2049 Institute, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to security issues in the Indo-Pacific.
The congressman noted trends in wargames over the past several years, in which the United States consistently lost to China in simulated invasions of Taiwan by the mainland. He also expressed concern about the United States’ lack of growth in hard power assets like naval vessels.
“I am very concerned about our failure to build a bigger navy,” Gallagher said. “I think you’re seeing a less favorable balance of power by the day.”
Gallagher said that the ships and other capabilities currently being budgeted by the Pentagon were important, but wouldn’t be built, much less ready to fight, by 2025 or 2026. Meanwhile, some U.S. military officials have expressed concern that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could happen within that timeframe.
As such, Gallagher said that the United States ought to consider repurposing extant resources and work to more effectively deploy key forces throughout the Indo-Pacific.
“What we need to do is find ways that we can rapidly surge combat power into the region with innovative options that we can field in the next three to five years,” the congressman said.
He suggested deploying a dispersed force across the Indo-Pacific, likely mostly made up of Marines along with long-range missile capabilities, stationed in places like Guam, Midway Atoll, and maybe even Palau.
For Gallagher, having hard power in the region was necessary for projecting soft power abroad. But the Pentagon, in the lawmaker’s view, doesn’t feel a sense of urgency about the situation with Taiwan, and is instead about to take a “massive step backward” in its approach to dealing with China.
He questioned the usefulness of the emerging concept of “integrated deterrence” championed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, which focuses more heavily on developing joint interoperability between forces and using technologies like artificial intelligence than on creating and maintaining new weapons systems.
“I really think it’s a bankrupt buzzword that’s going to be used as a smoke screen to cover for the fact that we are going to disinvest in hard power or in conventional deterrence and put all of our eggs in the basket of a ‘technological Third Offset’,” Gallagher said.
The “Third Offset” was a strategy promoted by the DoD in 2014 that focused resources on research and development planning, as well as increased cooperation with the private sector, as key methods of mitigating the advantages of other great powers like China and Russia.
Gallagher argued that the United States would need to develop a more realistic approach that integrated a full understanding of the Chinese Communist Party’s global ambitions, while not sacrificing long-term strategic goals to short-term crises.
As such, the congressman highlighted the importance of Australia and Japan in securing stability in the region, and welcomed recent reports that United States troops were in Taiwan and training forces there. More work, he added, would need to be done to develop a joint command and control apparatus with Japan and Australia, and to integrate operational planning among the United States and its allies.
In all, Gallagher stressed that the United States’ relationship with China and the corresponding strategic situation would not go back to the status quo that existed before the trade war which began in 2018. According to Gallagher, Chinese adventurism simply would not permit it.
“General Secretary Xi Jinping won’t let us [go back],” Gallagher said. “He’s getting more aggressive by the day.”