No Time to Gut Defense

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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The Pentagon’s annual review of Beijing’s military power paints the picture of a nation eager to challenge the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, and Washington’s apparent willingness to try to balance the federal budget on the backs of the Armed Forces paints the picture of a nation that will be unprepared to meet that challenge.

According to the Pentagon report, “by the latter half of the current decade, China will likely be able to project and sustain a modest-sized force, perhaps several battalions of ground forces or a naval flotilla of up to a dozen ships, in low-intensity operations far from China. This evolution will lay the foundation for a force able to accomplish a broader set of regional and global objectives.” In conjunction with its buildup of these ground, sea and air assets, Beijing is building aerospace and cyberspace capabilities to wage—or at least to threaten—asymmetrical war against the United States.

In short, in the span of a decade or so, China’s military has evolved from a 1960s-vintage territorial army barely able to defend its coastal areas into an increasingly high-tech, power-projecting force with global reach and global ambitions.

DoD estimates China’s “total military-related spending for 2010 was over $160 billion.” With those financial resources, “China is developing measures to deter or counter third-party intervention, including by the United States.” Among China’s growing arsenal of anti-access weapons are anti-ship missiles with a range exceeding 1,500 km, upgraded B-6 bombers armed with a new long-range cruise missile, an emerging aircraft-carrier capability, and 75 surface combatants, more than 60 submarines and 85 missile-equipped small boats. All of these are aimed at dissuading the United States from getting involved in areas of interest to China—and ultimately chasing the United States out of the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the DoD reports that “China has settled eleven land disputes with six of its neighbors since 1998,” it adds that China has “maritime boundary disputes with Japan, and throughout the South China Sea with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan.” These disputes are highlighted by almost-weekly headlines detailing Chinese bullying on the high seas.

Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, adds that “the scope and pace of…modernization without clarity on China’s ultimate goals remains troubling. For example, China continues to accelerate its offensive air and missile developments without corresponding public clarification about how these forces will be utilized. Of particular concern is the expanding inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles (which include anti-ship capability) and the development of modern, fourth- and fifth-generation stealthy combat aircraft.”

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  • Rifleman

    There's plenty of money to pay able bodied people to sit on their cans for two years, to support individual irresponsibility, failed businesses, and take over health care, but our air superiority fighter pilots must fly 40 year old aircraft, and our Marines use 50 year old landing craft? We'll end up paying in blood, like we did in WW2.

  • StephenD

    Streamlining the Military and making clear its objectives while providing for the capability to meet those objectives will go a long way to a viable financial standing for our National Defense. Perhaps a fresh look at the role our military plays is worth the visit. Being the police force for the world just doesn't cut it. Why are we concerned about Libya or now Uganda? Time to come home, consolidate our resources and use them as we must…not how some may think we should.

  • mrbean

    How about a 10% salary cut across for every state and federal employee and elected representative (including their staff and appontees) including the President and that the also pay social security and medicare contribute 5% of their salary towards their pensions. All of them would still be vastly overpaid and over-benefitted compared to the private sector. This is not only fair and but long overdue.

  • maturin20

    160 billion in 2010 is still dwarfed by our 680 billion in the same year. Even if we trimmed 100 billion a year over the next decade, as the article suggests may happen, and if China increases their spending by 12.7% each year, we would still outspend them during that period by about 2.8 trillion dollars.

    • Matt

      The main point of difference between China & The USA in military spending is;
      China is not wasting vast sums of money & has a clear direction of where they are heading. Unlike the US defence industry that has become bloated & lazy through self interest & greed!
      Sometimes a friend needs to hear the harsh reality from a friend.

      • maturin20

        Let's not be too charitable to China. I'm sure waste and ambiguity are issues for them in defense.

  • Herman Caintonette

    The more pertinent question is, why should we be the world's policeman? Cutting off Israel ought to be our first priority, and divesting from our pointless adventures in the Middle East should follow in post haste. Providing for the national defense does not justify invasions of sovereign nations half-way around the world.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    As we disintegrate from within America can be assured that we will be attacked
    from without. It is abundantly clear that we are paying the fare for Islam and
    Communism to overcome the World. If we were to use our own vast oil reserves,
    and put Americans back to work in our own energy industry, the tide of Islam
    will run out of funding. If we replace the Congress that has allowed unlimited
    subversie immegration, illegal immegration, obstructive unnecessary regulation,
    oversized government infested with leftist obstructionists and rebuild American
    manufacturing we can make the comeback. Elimination of government schools,
    resume Civics, Ethics and American History as mandatory education it is
    possible that the American Psyche can be healed and the subverted amoral
    American image can done away with. Many starts in the right direction must
    come about in the next year, the absence of which will be unthinkable.
    William