Urging the Pentagon to Ramp up Strength in the Region Now Before It’s Too Late

The Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) recently a whopping $15 plus billion, seeking to amplify its capabilities in the region before tensions become too heated and spiral out of control. This is the largest-ever defense funding for the region made thus far in American history.

In the midst of ongoing tensions between the United States and China, INDOPACOM aims to beef up its defense and deterrence capabilities to protect Guam, acquire more sophisticated weaponry, and build bases or installations in Australia, Oceania, and the Mariana Islands before 2027.

The deadline corresponds with the targeted date for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) military modernization and a potential invasion of Taiwan, which likewise coincides with the centenary foundation anniversary of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The security environment in the Indo-Pacific is becoming more dangerous and defined by an increasing risk of confrontation and crisis,” INDOPACOM wrote in its priority assessment obtained by Foreign Policy. It also warned about China’s rapid progress on their “whole-of-government assault against the rules-based international order and the strategic competition with the US now encompasses all domains to include efforts to coerce our strongest allies in an attempt to dominate the region.”

Therefore, urging Washington to pour more resources “to present a persistent, lethal, and integrated Joint Force west of the [international date line]” and to demonstrate the high stakes to China and other US adversaries.

The PLA’s rapid modernization efforts embolden the CCP to defy long-standing international legal norms and engage in more provocative behavior,” it added.

Biggest Defense Budget Yet

The INDOPACOM’s request comes on top of the Biden administration’s $842 billion defense budget for fiscal year (FY) 2024—a $26 billion increase over FY23 and a $100 billion increase over FY22.

“To sustain our military advantage over China, it makes major investments in integrated air and missile defenses and operational energy efficiency, as well as in our air dominance, our maritime dominance, and in munitions, including hypersonics,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a statement released on March 13. “This budget includes the largest-ever request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which we are using to invest in advanced capabilities, new operational concepts, and more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Apart from the aforementioned countries, ground-breaking posture initiatives in Japan and the Philippines are also included in the budget.

In its budget proposal, INDOPACOM intends to strengthen its defense and deterrence capabilities by procuring sea-based long-range standoff weapons and anti-ship missiles, as well as advanced air and missile defense sensors, reinforcing the state’s arsenal of long-range precision-guided munitions, which recent wargames predict could run out within a week in a war over Taiwan.

Other imperative investment comprised in the funding includes:

  • Nearly $2 billion spending to reinforce US military installations, including more slots for American bombers and fighter jets at air forces bases in Australia, the Marianas, and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam—as well as submarine pier and satellite communications on the island;
  • Around $1.5 billion worth of missile defenses, including the deployment of the Aegis Ashore system and the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense program, on Guam to protect threats against China’s medium-range missile threats;
  • $5.3 billion spending for track missiles, including overhead persistent infrared radar capable of covering the Arctic, missile warning tracking in low-earth orbit, and over $1 billion to build a space-based sensor layer;
  • Nearly $3 billion in potent naval weaponry consisting of around $266 million for extra Tomahawk land-attack missiles, $395 million for a longer-range version of the system, more missiles for the F-35A fighter jets, and more than $350 million for anti-submarine torpedoes;
  • $1.1 billion for a variety of training exercises and experiments, such as the “AI-enabled planning & wargaming” initiative, dubbed Stormbreaker;
  • Roughly $35 million for maintenance, logistics, and the pre-positioning of equipment, including the draining of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel storage facility in Hawaii; and
  • Nearly $315 million for new sea mines.

Nonetheless, it is unlikely to fulfill the combatant commands urgent infrastructure and equipment needs and is geared toward long-term modernization.

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The Pentagon doesn’t have a separate budget dedicated solely to the Indo-Pacific region, which some experts frustratingly noted, urging to pick up from the sluggish pace and work on more “concrete” attention on defense other than simple deterrence.

Xi and His Quest To Build a “World-Class Military”

CCP leader Xi Jinping reiterated his usual appeal for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards” in his speech at the ceremonial parliament earlier this month.

According to the state news agency Xinhua, Xi called for maximization and acceleration of the country’s strategic capabilities to “systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realize strategic objectives.”

This includes the rapid development of independent build-up in science and technology, such as semiconductors and chips, which would subsequently cushion repercussions in trade sanctions and lessen the impact on its military tech innovations and other supply chains in the future, reported via PBS News.

Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development,” said Xi, echoing a previous remark made by China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who warned of likely escalating “conflict and confrontation” between Washington and Beijing.