Deterring Chinese aggression against Taiwan is realistic and must be the commitment of any U.S. leader who refuses to accept American decline. Americans agree that China poses a serious threat to the United States, but there is disagreement about the ways China poses a problem and to what degree we can and should do something about it.
China’s economic coercion, censorship, theft, and pernicious efforts to make America more like China, or at least make Americans of the view that there is nothing wrong with the Chinese Communist way, are meant to help China exert greater influence over U.S. business, trade, speech, religious expression, travel, medicine, etc. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) snuffing out of liberties in Hong Kong and its domestic repression make perfectly clear what the CCP values and what behavior, speech, and thought they reward and punish.
China’s growing influence over U.S. culture, sports, and big business leaders will not simply fizzle out on its own. Stopping Chinese domination will require determined U.S. leadership. To do what, exactly? To untangle our countries’ financial interdependence, to create significant disincentives for Americans to bend to the CCP’s preferences and demands, to reshore critical manufacturing, to revitalize American education in research and technology, and to reassert U.S. sovereignty and promote and defend the American way of life.
So the astute American who appreciates how badly this country needs highly motivated and sustained political leadership to support a renewal in our civic and democratic institutions will also appreciate that this national renewal necessarily includes competing with and at times confronting China.
China has become much more influential in international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization, in addition to private companies, because of the size of its economy and the strength of its military. China has been amassing a large, precise, and diverse arsenal of missiles and has practiced using them against mockups of U.S. ships and the bases the United States has in the region. China has also built a Navy bigger than ours. It has invested in cutting-edge space and cyberspace technologies.
As China grows in strength militarily and economically, relative to the United States, it grows in its ability to coerce and pressure the United States and our allies. As China scholar Denny Roy summarized in an essay, China’s hegemonic intent is increasingly hard to deny:
Equally obviously, however, Beijing pressures, corrupts and coerces foreign governments to act in support of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agenda in various ways, including military intimidation, cutting off trade, bribing foreign officials, grey zone activities, harassment in contravention of professional norms, hostage diplomacy, cyberwarfare and collusion with other outlaw governments. The frequent result is Beijing forcing other governments to abandon their preferred course of action – to ‘suffer what they must.’
This brings us to the question of Taiwan. “Unifying” the vibrant democratic and capitalist Taiwanese island to mainland communist China is the CCP’s highest priority. China has been harassing Taiwan incessantly, trying to intimidate and cause to despair its population of 24 million, who have repeatedly voted to remain autonomous and free.
Reasonable and decent people agree that Communist China’s ongoing assault against Taiwan is unjust, and that China is the aggressor against the democratic island that just wants to be left alone. But the first step for the CCP to establish hegemony over Eurasia is to overturn the status quo and to absorb Taiwan — including by military force if necessary.
Adm. Phil Davidson, in his outgoing congressional testimony as head of the Indo-Pacific Command last spring, estimated that China would invade Taiwan in six years. Analysts now refer to this ominous prediction as the “Davidson Window.”
The debate over whether the United States should be concerned over Taiwan’s fate would be more constructive if people knew that successfully deterring Chinese aggression against Taiwan is technically possible. It is. This is not to suggest the steps necessary to deter Chinese aggression are easy; they are not. But the steps are eminently doable, and defeatism is unwarranted.
But whatever we are going to do to deter Chinese aggression must begin now and be sustained over the next several years and then for the foreseeable future. Presumably Chinese leaders have not attempted to forcibly occupy Taiwan up until this point because they are not confident that the cost would be worth the gain.
The job before the United States is to make sure they continue to draw this conclusion. Broadly, this will require the United States to lead a coalition (the Aussies and Japanese are on board) to credibly convince the Chinese that we would prevent China from getting across the 80 miles of ocean to the Taiwan Strait before it could launch a full-scale invasion.
First, arm and cooperate heavily with our allies. This includes Taiwan, whose officials and public opinion polls repeatedly show have the will to fight off CCP invaders. Taiwanese polling data over the past several years emphatically shows a willingness of the people of Taiwan to fight (almost 80 percent in a recent poll) despite CCP disinformation to convey the opposite.
Importantly, a leading Taiwanese analyst noted: “the more supportive the United States appears, the more confident the people are; when the United States is less supportive, the people then lean toward China.” But they need to spend a lot more money on their defense and they must buy the right kinds of weapon systems necessary to pose an asymmetrical threat. We should insist they do so, privately.
There are other good conversations going on now to collaborate with allies for “capacity building,” for example, stockpiling munitions in and with Japan. But Japan should also buy from the United States and field a long-range strike capability. That’s still politically fraught in Japan, but less than it used to be, as Japan stares down the proverbial barrel of a CCP gun.
Good things are happening without the United States, too, but our steady hand in the region is undoubtedly needed. (Japanese warships have cooperated with Taiwanese warships to get Chinese ships to back off Taiwan.) There is also considerable potential for basing Unmanned Aerial Systems in the nearby Japanese and Philippine islands and Guam with relatively small landing strips. Unmanned Aerial Systems with long-range strike missiles could be formidable against transport ships, for example.
Second, the United States must prepare to withstand and then prevail in a Chinese-initiated missile attack. This means working on defenses to limit the damage of an attack and deploy offensive weapons to respond with formidable combat power. This requires hardening U.S. assets with passive and active defenses.
The good news is we can get started on this now if we do not permit bureaucratic inertia to get in the way. We don’t need more government reports to tell us it would be extremely good to put a robust (not impenetrable!) missile defense architecture that includes the full spectrum of already developed missile defense systems on the U.S. territory Guam.
Guam will be critical for any U.S. effort to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific and to prevent China from dominating it. It also means investing in new technologies like hypersonic weapons and defenses and the attendant sensor and tracking architecture. Some of this good work is underway but it needs to move faster. Our testing programs should also move faster and more obviously demonstrate a real-world ability against a Chinese attack. It also means investing in underwater warfare capabilities — submarines, submarines, submarines.
Third, the United States must revitalize and update our nuclear deterrence so it disabuses a potentially dangerous Chinese misunderstanding that it would be wise to use a low-yield nuclear weapon against U.S. forces. Well-meaning idealists might wish that nuclear weapons and their deterrent impact have no role in contemporary geopolitics. But our adversaries do not share that wish. In 2017, China announced its intention to build a “world-class military by the middle of the century.”
To their mind, this clearly means they want to be on the same level as the United States — and Russia (which has far more theater nuclear weapons than the United States) in nuclear weapons. Estimates are that China will at least double its nuclear warhead stockpile in the next decade.
Because the United States has not invested in theater-range nuclear weapons, China has exploited this. As Dr. Christopher Yeaw, who was the chief scientist of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC)and theDepartment of Energy’s lead official in the development and rollout of the 2018 Trump administration Nuclear Posture Review, has written:
In these wargames, adversary crossing of the nuclear threshold has been deemed by players as quite credible, given the paucity of reciprocal US deterrent capabilities and the minimized collateral damage afforded by such adversarial employment. US players have found response options to be uncomfortably insufficient or even non-credible, largely because of a paucity of sufficient prompt, assured, proportional NSNW capability.
To bolster deterrence in the China context, we should address the paucity and we should be fully modernizing and adapting U.S. nuclear deterrence — not weakening, restricting, or shrinking it.
China has imperialistic ambitions, and it is naïve to insist it is not so. But, like the United States, it also has problems. We should not permit defeatism to reign, thereby surrendering the next century to one where Chinese Communism is the most influential global power.
China’s pandemic-spreading, bullying, coercion, lying, and opacity generally, but especially during the last two years, has seriously harmed its global reputation and galvanized U.S.-led coalitions opposing it. We have ample reason to be encouraged that we can exploit China’s weaknesses while keeping clear eyes to the threat and necessary moves to fight for American preeminence.
The goal for the United States must be to prevent a war with China and to fight for American sovereignty. The goal is to deter aggression that could lead to further escalation. If deterrence fails, we should be prepared to outmaneuver and out-muscle China to cause them to back down.
War is always a tragic outcome — but it is sometimes not the worst outcome. We could simply let the Chinese Communists take democratic Taiwan and the rest of Eurasia while we focus on worthy domestic debates and crises at home; and when we are finished with those domestic fights, we will look up to see that our country is at the mercy of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communism. It is not a good trade.
We can successfully take on our domestic challenges while deterring CCP domination, and in doing so, preserve and strengthen American security and the American way of life — and we must.
By Red State•
The reports of increased Russian military submarine activity just off our coast should be a wake-up call. Our other peer competitor, China, is also rapidly growing its naval capability with more modern and sophisticated submarines, many of which could threaten critical trade passages throughout the Pacific. Shockingly, the U.S. Navy has admitted that it no longer considers sailing just off our East coast to be an “uncontested” area or a “safe haven” for U.S. naval ships and submarines to operate.
The growth of China’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines has naval and national security officials worried. NORTHCOM Commander, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, speaking of Chinese and Russian submarine aggression recently said: “We have had [in the past] the luxury of not having threats to the homeland that are literally right off our doorstep. That environment is rapidly changing and has changed, [and] we have not yet achieved the capability and capacity that we need to maintain that competitive advantage.”
In short, our naval advantage is rapidly shrinking and in some areas it has entirely evaporated. Reports of Russian and Chinese spy ships just off our coast should also raise us from our slumber. But the growing risks don’t stop there.
Additionally, our naval fleet is threatened around the world by lesser powers who have new quiet diesel submarines. The point isn’t that a nation like Iran could defeat our Navy in an all-out naval battle. They wouldn’t stand a chance. But because of the sub technology they’ve obtained, they can more adeptly move near American ships and endanger the lives of American sailors. And we do not have the ships to be everywhere at once to combat the risks.
The U.S. Navy is under a lot of pressure and needs to increase its fleet to meet the growing threats around the globe. But he fleet has been shrinking, not growing. The Navy is trying to turn this around but building ships, as important as it is to grow the fleet, is not the only need.
Budget constraints apparently have forced the Navy into abandoning the production of its P-8A Poseidon — the world’s premier anti-submarine platform – before it can reach its own warfighting requirement. Put into context, during the height of the Cold War when Russian sub-hunting was a necessity, there were 24 anti-submarine squadrons in the active duty, and 12 in the Navy Reserve. Today, there are only 12 active duty squadrons, and the budget eliminates the only two Reserve squadrons for the entire East and West Coast. With Russian and Chinese subs operating around the globe and around our coasts and with other lessor naval powers advancing their own underwater capabilities, we need sub-hunters like the P-8A Poseidon now more than ever! And given the fact the we already have a shortage of Poseidon anti-submarine jets, now is not the time to shut down production.
Members of Congress must resolve this problem. Previous budget cuts of $2.4 billion have put the Navy in an impossible position of trying to grow the fleet and increase its anti-submarine capabilities. But this is impossible math. Congress must step in and solve this funding crunch. We cannot afford to embolden either the Russians or the Chinese or for that matter the Iranians, North Koreans, or other regional naval powers.
Even though the Russian navy overall is in decline, their commitment to submarine technology is not. They are focusing their efforts on submarines because they can be tremendously disruptive and destructive. The Chinese submarine fleet is as large as 70 vessels, with the capacity to grow to 100 within the next 15 years. In years past, the Chinese Navy was focused on homeland defense in waters that were relatively close their country. But now, particularly with the introduction of cruise missiles into their fleet, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is venturing out into broader international waters to threaten the United States. They’ve made it clear that their plan is to cause disruption and demonstrate to the world that the United States is no longer the world’s greatest naval power.
We need the robust anti-submarine capabilities of aircraft such as the P-8A Poseidon to help reduce this risk. These anti-submarine jets can patrol and monitor sensitive areas around the globe where we may, or may not, want to devote other naval assets. The Poseidon is a great tool to stretch our capabilities and reach — and will help us buy time while we increase the size of our naval fleet. But shutting down production of the Poseidon places not only our Navy at greater risk, it also threatens our commerce, our economy, and our coastal waters.
The Poseidon is a bargain as its costs have been reduced by 30% over the past several years while its integrated systems and weapons have been improved and upgraded. Plus, while the Poseidon was designed as an anti-submarine platform, it is a highly flexible plane that can take on many other missions — intelligence gathering, ground surveillance, and even as a robust platform to launch offensive weapons. But right now, there aren’t enough aircraft in service even to perform its main mission — protect America from submarine threats.
Congress must do something about this shortfall because providing for the “common defense” is one of the federal government’s prime objectives under our constitutional federal system. It would be entirely irresponsible to squeeze the Navy so that it cannot meet the threats that exist around the globe — and even just off our coast in our own waters.
The US Air Force (USAF) is in the process of developing the next generation Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This critically important next generation nuclear deterrent is known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and it is needed because America’s current ground based nuclear deterrent is the Minuteman missile that was first deployed in 1962. It was originally designed to last 10 years. The system has been updated over 50 to 60 years to keep pace with the growing threat, but the aging system requires a complete overhaul to assure continued deterrence for the next 50+ years.
Unfortunately, the USAF has completely mismanaged the process and despite paying lip service to “competition,” is now on the verge of awarding a sole-source, cost plus contact for more than $85 billion. Let that sink in. Something as important as our nuclear deterrent could be done without serious competition. As a result, the American taxpayer will likely be forced to pay more, wait longer, and get less protection from growing nuclear threats. It didn’t have to be like this and there is still time for President Trump and Member of Congress on both sides of the aisle to demand that the Air Force regroup and get this important detail right.
GBSD’s need is so obvious, that in an era of virtually no bi-partisanship, GBSD nonetheless has strong bi-partisan support. But, we must get this right because will have to live with the results for the next 50 to 60 years. And on the nuclear front, the world will be far more dangerous the next 50 years than it was the last 50 years. And with China’s plans to challenge and replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation, we cannot afford to have our nuclear deterrent be second best. The murderous and dictatorial communist Chinese leadership will not be a benevolent force in the world.
While the Air Force paid lip service to “competition,” it created a process that subverted any real or robust competition. And the Air Force defended its flawed process by arguing that the urgency was so great that they couldn’t slow down to get things right — even if in the end it would save time, save money, and produce a far better and capable nuclear deterrent. Perhaps most importantly, this mismanagement a less robust system means that America will be at greater risk for the next 50 or 60 years — until the next major update and redevelopment.
Simply put, the Air Force’s mismanagement means that GBSD will be more costly, arrive later, and be less capable. It is particularly ironic because the Air Force has been warned that it was mishandling things (I’ve written on this before — Next Generation ICBM Should Be The Result Of Robust Competition and I’m not the only one.) But their response was always to chant the magic word “competition” while digging in its heels and proceeding to subvert any serious competition.
A robust competition between America’s best minds, and most capable high tech firms will produce a more robust system and at a lower cost. Moreover, a teamwork approach would speed its development and deployment. With real competition, GBSD will be less costly, be developed faster, and be more capable and effective. Even if you think fixing the Air Force’s past mismanagement might cost some time with a restart, wouldn’t you want our nuclear deterrent for the next 50 to 60 years to be as robust as possible?
Ask yourself if Olympians perform better running all alone in an ordinary workout, or when they are in a competitive environment and are pushed by other top Olympians in the race. The answer is obvious. The Air Force has presided over a process that effectively asks an Olympian to perform his best while working out alone. If that sounds dumb, you understand the level of mismanagement.
The Air Force competitively selected Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the only viable providers of GBSD. Almost immediately, Northrop Grumman bought the sole, viable manufacturer of solid rocket boosters for this rocket – Orbital ATK, and likely did so to corner the market for GBSD. The solid rocket boosters are a major part of the GBSD program and constitute about 1/2 of the cost of each missile. In any event, no matter who makes the rest of the missile, the rocket boosters will be made by Orbital ATK. But if Northrup Grumman is allowed to use its ownership of Orbital ATK (in contravention of a consent decree made at the time of the purchase to avoid precisely this situation), they can effectively price their competition out of the game by charging them more for the rocket boosters.
So the Air Force has effectively and massively favored one competitor in the GBSD process and thereby eliminated the balance, fairness and benefits of competition. Consequently, Boeing informed the Air Force that they will not pursue an unfair solicitation. This makes perfect sense — why invest millions in a so-called competitive process that isn’t remotely competitive because the outcome is predetermined by poorly conceived ground rules?
Had the Air Force removed the rocket booster portion the GBSD project out of the competition, they could have had a robust competition between two great high tech firms on the rest of the GBSD system.
While the Air Force has made it clear that its heels are dug in and it won’t correct its mismanagement, President Trump and Members of Congress must demand that the Air Force start the competitive process over and hold a real competition.
The Air Force must be instructed to remove solid rocket booster component from the competition — since either party will use the same booster, it isn’t a factor. Then, the two firms can innovate and compete on the technology and capability and cost of the missile. The taxpayer benefits and all of us who would like to be protected from nuclear attack will have the most robust deterrent possible.
President Trump and Congress should speak with one voice on something as fundamentally important as America’s nuclear deterrent. That one voice should be saying, “Wait a minute! This system that will protect us from nuclear threat for the next 50 to 60 years. It must be the result of a real and robust competition, not a sham process.” The Air Force has said that competition matters. It is now time for their actions to prove that they mean it!
by Peter Huessy
Following the President’s visit to Hiroshima, nuclear weapons and their enduring usefulness in protecting America and its allies has become an increasingly important focus of debate especially the degree with which United States security policy should embrace the goal of zero nuclear weapons.
The debate centers on three major themes. They are: (1) whether the value of these weapons includes deterring not just nuclear threats but conventional and other threats to the United States and its allies; (2) the degree to which the United States is leading an “arms race” while modernizing its remaining but much reduced nuclear deterrent; and (3) how the twin goals of further nuclear reductions and greater strategic stability interact, particularly with respect to the early use of nuclear weapons in a crisis, maintaining a hedge capability should geostrategic conditions deteriorate and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to new nuclear powers. Continue reading
By George Landrith • American Military News
North Korea has test fired five new missiles and claims to have successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Iran too is racing towards nuclear weapons and advanced missile technology. Around the globe, risks are increasing. As a result, deterrence is more important than ever.
There was a time when deterrence simply meant having retaliatory nuclear weapons. But the risks are far more complex than a generation ago. Maintaining a strong and credible nuclear deterrent is absolutely necessary. But by itself, it is not enough. Today, the risks are too varied to have a single solution. The US must have a robust, multifaceted, broad-based deterrent to stop the world’s evil doers. A modern military deterrent includes: (i) a strong up-to-date nuclear threat; (ii) a robust multi-layered missile defense; and (iii) a powerful conventional military force that can meet any threat and defeat any foe.
The need for a nuclear deterrent is clear. If any nation is tempted to use nuclear weapons, they must know that the retaliatory nuclear strike that would follow, would be devastating. With our nuclear weapons aging and more than a generation old, however, we must make needed upgrades to our nuclear triad. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
Conventional wisdom in our nation’s Capital mistakenly holds that nuclear weapons are not useful in deterring our adversaries, not relevant to meeting new terrorist threats, and not valuable tools of overall American and allied statecraft.
The threats from Ukraine, Ebola and the ISIS are mistakenly used to make the case that nuclear weapons cannot deter most threats to the United States. We are assured the only role our nuclear weapons should play is to stop another country from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons.
From this mistaken idea flows the further conclusion the US needs only a very small deterrent of nuclear warheads for deterrence, some seventy to eighty percent less than what we have deployed today.* Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget makes a defense spending request that exceeds the Budget Control Act (BCA) spending cap for FY16 by $35 billion with a “base” defense spending request of $534 billion, while also asking Congress for an additional $51 billion for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations(OCO) that are, under law, not subject to the spending caps.
Of the amount requested by the President, for what is known as the “base” defense budget, $209.8 billion is for operations and maintenance (O&M), $107.7 billion is for procurement, and $69.8 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E).The remaining costs (largely personnel) are exempt from any cuts.
For the OCO accounts, $40.2 billion is for O&M, and $7.3 billion is requested for procurement with half of that for the US Army. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
One area of controversy is the nuclear modernization accounts which will receive at least an additional $1.2 billion in funding, from a $23.5 billion level for the current fiscal year. They account for 4% of the defense accounts and 0.6% of the Federal budget.
Included is more modernization funding for warhead activities, the Ohio class submarine replacement program, a new long range bomber and a follow-on air launched cruise missiles, as well as the land based Minuteman missiles or ground based strategic deterrent. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
The President’s budget will be submitted to Congress this week and the annual Department of Defense (DOD) budget at $585 billion is sure to get a lot of attention. For example, Tom Collina of the Ploughshares Fund (1) recommended, even before the budget was released, that the USA cut $75 billion over the next ten years from projected DOD nuclear weapons modernization requirements.(2)
Included in the proposed cuts would be four out of the twelve planned submarines we are building to replace our current Ohio class Trident fleet of 14 nuclear armed submarines. These bulwarks of our deterrent were first put into the water some 30 years ago and will soon reach the end of their hull life. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
Cutting $70 billion over the next ten years from America’s nuclear deterrent is the goal of a number of proponents of global zero. The cut would be equal to roughly 25% of all planned nuclear deterrent expenditures. The idea is to delay building a new dual capable strategic bomber while also cutting the number of nuclear submarines to replace the current Ohio class boomers. In both cases, the arms control enthusiasts pushing such policies are missing the boat–their budget numbers do not add up and their strategic thinking is off base. Continue reading