Adm. Christopher Grady speaks during the change of command ceremony in 2018.

Adm. Christopher Grady speaks during the change of command ceremony in 2018. (Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military can aid Taiwan along with Ukraine and Israel if the Indo-Pacific island came under attack from China, the Pentagon’s second highest-ranking officer said Monday.

“[They are] not necessarily the same things, so we are able to work our way through that,” Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a discussion at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank that studies international affairs. “Is it challenging? Sure, but as [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd Austin] said, we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

The United States has been providing billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in early 2022 and recently began sending increased aid to Israel after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants. The U.S. has said many times that it would also provide needed support to Taiwan if it was attacked or invaded by China, which considers the island a breakaway Chinese territory.

Giving aid to two countries involved in conflicts has already raised the question whether the support could put a strain on U.S. military capabilities and readiness. Some U.S. military leaders have said China could move on Taiwan as soon as 2027.

“According to some observers, Taiwan’s civil defense preparedness is insufficient, and Taiwan’s military struggles to recruit, retain and train personnel,” according to a report in September by the Congressional Research Service, a public policy research institute. “Some U.S. officials [have] publicly cited specific years in the mid-2020s as possible target dates for a [Chinese] attack on Taiwan, sparking alarm and reinvigorating debates among experts and policymakers about how to allocate limited time and resources to shore up Taiwan’s resilience.”

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said earlier in the year that it might be “challenging” to keep U.S. and Ukraine troops armed if the defense industry cannot maintain adequate production of equipment and weapons. He later clarified his remark and said he fully expected industry production to keep up. Grady said Monday that giving aid to three allies can be done.

“We can do all of that,” he said of supplying the militaries of Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. “What we are doing right now, the steady state that we’re in now, yeah for sure.”

During the discussion, Grady touched on other issues facing the military right now – such as the rise in attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East and the failure of Congress to pass funding for fiscal 2024. If lawmakers don’t authorize new funding, the Pentagon would run out of money on Feb. 2.

“If there’s any takeaway from this discussion today, continuing resolutions are not where we want to be,” he said of the temporary funding measures that the government has been relying on since fiscal 2024 began Oct. 1. “We need that stable and predictable funding.”

The continuing resolutions only extend 2023 funding levels for a few extra weeks and prevent the military from working on new projects such as shipbuilding and military construction. President Joe Biden has also requested roughly $105 billion in supplemental funding to keep sending aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as make key defense industry investments.

“Our presence, along with our international allies and partners, is going to be really important,” Grady said of the Middle East. “It’s a dangerous place.”

Since mid-October, there have been at least 76 separate attacks on American bases in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said Monday. None of the attacks have caused serious injury to any service members, but the Pentagon has said they are all being carried out with support, and sometimes funding, from the Iranian government.

“It very much is an expansion of perhaps the larger conflict [between] Israel and Hamas,” he said of the attacks on U.S. troops. “There is undoubtedly an Iranian hand in this.”

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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