On April 2nd, Admiral Philip Davidson, chief of US Indo-Pacific command said that the US needs to spend $20 billion in order to “more fully disperse troops and advanced weaponry across the Pacific, build up missile defense systems, and create a network of joint training ranges stretching from California to Japan.”
So, the request includes defensive ring around Guam, millions in new military funding for partner nations, and a billion dollars for increased stockpiles of long-range weapons.
The report is a sort of introduction to a new strategy for the US in countering China and Russia in the region, which Davidson appears to regard as “Regain the Advantage.”
“Regain the Advantage is designed to persuade potential adversaries that any preemptive military action will be extremely costly and likely fail by projecting credible combat power at the time of crisis, and provides the President and Secretary of Defense with several flexible deterrent options to include full OPLAN [operation plan] execution, if it becomes necessary,” Davidson wrote.
The $20 billion, Davidson notes, is only 80% of what Washington has spent on the European Defense Initiative (EDI) since 2014 to do many of the same things he wants to do. The Pentagon’s request for EDI in fiscal year 2021 is $4.5 billion.
Davidson’s plan “provides the necessary resources to implement a strategy of deterrence by 2026,” the report says, and a represents a “pragmatic and economically viable approach for implementing the [National Security Strategy] and [National Defense Strategy] based on a vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
China is identified as the United States’ biggest global competitor and place an emphasis on the Pacific theater. The document also attempts to remind the Congress of the strategies that military and civilian leaders have struggled to follow.
Into sections, the $20 billion would be used in several directions. The biggest funding recommendation falls under the Joint Force Lethality line, which represents $5.2 billion over the five-year projection, including investments in 360-degree air and missile defense systems, long-range precision fires, and ground- and space-based radars. Up top is what Davidson identifies as “my number one unfunded priority,” the Homeland Defense System-Guam.
In Davidson’s vision it is necessary to move offensive weapons forward, calling for “highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the First Island Chain, featuring increased quantities of allied ground-based weapons.”
This is in line with the emerging doctrine coming from the Marine Corps and Navy, who are looking to disperse smaller, faster, more deadly assets further afield in the Pacific.
Davidson also mentions investing roughly $1 billion on long-range precision fires, including the Navy’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk, the Air Force’s Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile with Extended Range, the Army’s Cross Domain Army Tactical Missile System, and the Marine Corps’ HIMARS.
In a recent article, Randy Schriver, former assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs in the Trump Administration, and Eric Sayers, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former advisor to Indo-Pacific Command, both said that the proposal should be taken seriously.
The Pentagon and Congress should view this “not as a basic budget exercise but a broader strategic opportunity to message the U.S. commitment to the region,” they wrote. “The message the European Deterrence Initiative has sent NATO and Russia should be the same signal we want to send our Asian allies and partners as well as those in Beijing who have grown confident of their military capabilities.”
Russia is only briefly mentioned, as it would start undertaking “bolder” actions in the region, alongside China, if the US fails to undertake adequate measures.
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