Indo-Pacific Command seeks $27.3 billion to counter China
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: March 3, 2021
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The greatest danger the United States faces in the Pacific "is the erosion of conventional deterrence " with China, said the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, who submitted to Congress an assessment calling for $27.3 billion in spending from fiscal 2022 to 2027 to counter the rising Asian power.
Without a convincing deterrent capability, "China will be emboldened to take action to supplant the established rules-based international order," Adm. Phil Davidson said Monday in prepared remarks at the AFCEA TechNet Indo-Pacific Conference.
The United States "must convince Beijing that the costs to achieve its objectives by military force are simply too high," Davidson said.
An executive summary of the Pacific needs assessment said that the most important action the United States can take to increase lethality is to invest $1.6 billion in a 360-degree air defense capability on Guam — noted as the "most crucial operating location in the western Pacific" — and whose defense remains Indo-Pacific Command's No. 1 unfunded priority.
Davidson has called for a system such as Aegis Ashore — a test version of which operates on Kauai — to provide that capability.
Indo-Pacific Command "requires highly survivable, precision strike networks " with ground-based missiles along the first island chain that connects Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia, the report states. China is increasingly arming its man-made islands in the region.
Davidson said he is submitting two required documents to Congress : the annual Indo-Pacific posture statement and the assessment outlining the command's "most pressing war-fighting requirements." The latter is meant to "inform " the ongoing Pacific Deterrence Initiative passed last year addressing defense shortfalls.
"At the heart of it, our forces must be maneuverable—agile, if you will, " and have "depth " of firepower distributed and coordinated among all services in air, sea, land, space and cyberspace domains, he said at the conference.
Also being sought is $197 million for a "tactical multimission over-the-horizon radar " in Palau, one of several smaller Pacific nations that the U.S. military hopes can be used for 21st-century island-hopping operations.
The radar "will dramatically increase our situational awareness with wide-area detection and tracking of air and surface targets in the region and provide early warning to prevent surprise attacks, " Davidson said at the TechNet conference.
Other "critical " investment needs include $3.3 billion for "highly survivable, precision-strike fires " that can support air and warship maneuvers from distances greater than 310 miles and $2.3 billion for a constellation of space-based radars "to maintain situational awareness of adversary activities."
Congress last year created the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and funded it with $2.2 billion in fiscal 2021 as a way of addressing key needs in the Defense Department's priority theater.
The amount sought for the Pacific effort in fiscal 2022 — $4.6 billion — is two-thirds the amount spent on the European Defense Initiative in fiscal 2020, the summary notes.
The report also focuses on force design, strengthening allies and partners and exercises, and says that U.S. territories and compact states are "key strategic locations to project power, deter adversaries and respond to crises across the Indo-Pacific."
A total of $8.9 billion is being sought for power projection, troop dispersal, training, pre-positioning and construction activities in the Southeast Asia and Oceania regions.
The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau — with more than 200 islands and famous in World War II for the Battle of Peleliu — is a notable example of where the U.S. military is expanding its fast-moving capabilities. Palau is about 1,000 miles southeast of Manila.
Between Aug. 19 and 26, a Marine Corps engineer team conducting exercise Koa Moana (ocean warrior) helped with an airfield expansion project at an overgrown runway on 3-mile-long Angaur island in Palau.
On Sept. 5 an Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft landed and disgorged U.S. Army Pacific soldiers for training.
Two days after that, the Army Logistic Support Vessel LTG William B. Bunker out of Hawaii pulled up to the beach carrying two High Mobility Artillery Rocket System trucks to practice "force projection and expeditionary sustainment, " the Army said.
The Air Force is making $87 million in upgrades to the runway at Wake Island, 2, 300 miles west of Oahu. The island was attacked by Japan at the same time aircraft descended on Oahu.
In 2019 the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Pentagon inked a 40-year lease worth $21.9 million for use of a "divert " airfield on Tinian—from which bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Japan were launched in World War II.
Both the Marine Corps and Army are seeking to position fast-moving forces across Pacific islands and arm them with advanced missiles that can aid the Navy by sinking ships in contested choke points.