Eyeing China, Indo-Pacific Command seeks $27 billion deterrence fund
Joe Gould·5 min read
WASHINGTON ― U.S. military officials have outlined a new spending request to boost deterrence against China, including new weapons, new construction and closer military-to-military collaboration with America’s allies in the region.
A report from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command delivered to Congress on Monday calls for roughly $27 billion in additional spending between 2022 and 2027; with $4.6 billion for next year alone. With a few key changes from last year’s proposal from Indo-Pacom’s commander, Adm. Philip Davidson, the request calls for new missiles and air defenses, radar systems, staging areas, intelligence-sharing centers, supply depots and testing ranges throughout the region, as well as exercises with allies and partners.
Indo-Pacom renewed its call for the U.S. to build a $1.6 billion, 360-degree persistent and integrated air defense capability in Guam, served by a $200 million high-frequency radar system for Pulau and a $2.3 billion constellation of space-based radars. It also proposes a $3.3 billion in ground-based, long-range fires with ranges of more than 500 kilometers, to make up “highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the First Island Chain.”
Davidson has said his top priority is establishing an Aegis Ashore system on Guam by 2026, which would help protect U.S. citizens and forces there. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery on Guam is meant to protect against a North Korean missile launch, though its single AN/TPY-2 radar is said to be vulnerable and cannot provide 360-degree coverage.
The new proposal, weeks before the Biden administration submits its fiscal 2022 budget request, is the Pentagon’s first since Congress established the Pacific Deterrence Initiative in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Last year’s version of the report proposed $18.5 billion in spending through 2026 and formed the basis for the PDI.
“The requirements outlined in this report are specifically designed to persuade potential adversaries that any preemptive military action will be too costly and likely to fail by projecting credible, combat power at the time of crisis,” reads an unclassified executive summary obtained by Defense News. “This includes providing several flexible deterrent options including full [operational plan] execution if deterrence should fail.”
Compromise defense bill confronts a rising China
In this year’s $574 million package of “logistics and security enablers” was a $226 million “information operations” proposal to “counter-propaganda tools designed to target malign influence” that had increased fivefold over last year. Also included is a new $44 million request for “electromagnetic warfare … and intelligence support to exploit, attack, protect, and manage military activities.”
DoD has assessed that if China were to use military force against Taiwan, it’s likely to complement its air and maritime blockade operations with jamming and network attacks, as well as information operations to isolate Taiwan’s authorities and populace while it controls the international narrative of the conflict.
Days after a Pentagon memo emphasizing long-range fires as an acquisitions priority for the coming 2022 budget, Indo-Pacom’s report calls again for a network of ground-based, long-range missiles with ranges of more than 500 kilometers, to protect aircraft and ships. China is seen as having an overwhelming advantage in land-based cruise and ballistic missiles.
The combinations of the weapons in the proposal would “create temporary windows of localized air and maritime superiority, enabling maneuver” by U.S. forces ― to include amphibious forces capable of conducting forced entry operations, the report states. All of the above would be enabled by “expeditionary airfields for dispersal and ports for distributed fleet operations” to be developed with allies. The price tag: $8.9 billion.
The Biden administration has signaled that it would take a tough approach to China. At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged China as the Pentagon’s pacing threat and called Pacific Deterrence Initiative a “useful tool” that he would work with Congress to implement.
“There’s no question that we need a more resilient and distributed force posture in the Indo-Pacific in response to China’s counter-intervention capabilities and approaches, supported by new operational concepts,” Austin said ahead of his confirmation. “If confirmed, I’ll review our posture in the Indo-Pacific including our presence, capabilities, logistics, exercises, infrastructure, and capacity building and cooperation with allies and partners.”
Guam’s air defense should learn lessons from Japan’s Aegis Ashore
Amid expectations of tighter defense budgets under the Biden administration, the report contains new language this year emphasizing the PDI as “a pragmatic and economically viable approach for implementing a deterrence strategy for defending U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific while mitigating risk and avoiding escalation.”
The $4.6 billion request for fiscal 2022 “is less than seven-tenths of 1% of the Department of Defense’s Total Obligating Authority in FY21, and two-thirds the amount spent on the European Defense Initiative in FY20 ($5.9B),” the report reads.
The multi-year European Deterrence Initiative, which inspired the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, was used to increase the U.S. presence in Europe after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“This report is the product of bipartisan agreement in Congress that the department’s current plan to arrest the growing military imbalance in the Pacific is insufficient,” said Eric Sayers, a former official with Indo-Pacom and a lead proponent of PDI. “PDI funding is a good opportunity for the Biden DoD to form an early alliance with the Hill on addressing this operational gap.”