Congressman: U.S. must invest in new military capabilities
July 24th, 2013
10:57 AM ET

Congressman: U.S. must invest in new military capabilities

By Jason Miks

U.S. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the China Caucus, answers GPS readers’ questions on China, the U.S. military and U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific.

America is losing its air power edge, but its naval supremacy is secure, for now at least. Do you agree?

It’s a difficult question, but I appreciate the challenge. I could simply say that both our airpower and seapower capability are in decline, which I believe they are in certain areas, but it is more complicated than that. First, we need to ask what our global national security interests are and what objectives we have for our policies. When it comes to our defense policy, the answer to this question will inform what sort of military power we need to build. For instance, during various periods of the Cold War we invested in irregular military power, long-range strike, mechanized capabilities, and naval power, among others. And during the last decade we invested heavily in our land power, including counterinsurgency training and capabilities. In other words, we do not just build seapower or airpower for its own sake or because our competitors are.

When I look out over the next decade or two I see a number of trends that will create new demands on our military. First, from the Persian Gulf, to the Indian Ocean, to the South China Sea, to the East China Sea, the character of this global environment strikes me as increasingly maritime. Second, while the United States has enjoyed advantages in areas such as precision-guided munitions, satellite communications, stealth technologies, and cyber, our competitors have found ways to match or undermine these advantages with their own asymmetric investments.

These two trends lead me to conclude that the United States will need to invest in new capabilities for conducting sea control, air dominance, and power projection missions if we are to retain our ability to fill certain capability gaps. In terms of our seapower, we need both a quantity of platforms and a balance of capabilities. The demand for Navy presence has only continued to rise while our fleet has continued to shrink. But while we certainly need more ships, we also need to build a Navy with the right ships. We must prioritize growing our attack submarine, destroyer, and amphibious fleets, while also sustaining a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers. These platforms are the core workhorses of the battle force fleet. In addition, we need to invest in new platforms that can enable the Navy’s core missions of sea control and power projection. In term of our airpower capabilities, I believe we will need to build an Air Force that can continue to conduct air dominance and project power into countries that now have advanced fighters and air-defense systems.

How concerned should the U.S. be about competing with China in the soft power, as well as hard power arenas?

The debates over soft power and hard power can be rather academic. When it comes to so-called “soft power,” I think our attention should instead focus on the narrative that defines how events are viewed in the Asia-Pacific. Is the United States perceived as a net-contributor to regional stability and prosperity? Is China viewed as a responsible stakeholder, a reluctant stakeholder, or simply a bully with growing economic power in the region?

More from CNN: Rise of China creating conflict

While China was able to portray what it called its “peaceful rise” as relatively tranquil during the last three decades, since 2010 that narrative has largely been replaced as a result of its more assertive posture. Countries like Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam have come under pressure to accommodate China’s diplomatic demands. Yang Jiechi, the former Chinese minister of foreign affairs, shocked many in July 2010 when he said that "China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that's just a fact." As a result, other countries have chosen to align themselves more closely with the U.S. or grow their defense budgets in response.

The U.S. is also working to balance its time, energy, and resources to the Asia-Pacific to reassure our Asian allies and partners of our intentions. However, the real determinant of these policies in terms of the regional narrative will be if we can properly resource this effort with a robust diplomatic effort, trade policy, and defense posture. Asian capitals are now closely watching our next steps and those steps will determine the direction many middle powers will chose to take. Will the region have the confidence to continue to align itself with the rules-based order that the United States has upheld, or will a new order emerge shaped by Chinese power and interests?

Should the U.S. be pressing China more on human rights issues?

Of course. I believe liberty is a universal right, not just an American one. The U.S. should speak with clarity on human rights issues, including religious freedom, when it comes to China. This is not only the right thing to do, but I also believe it’s essential if China is to sustain its success. China’s economic miracle will not continue at the same pace without political reform and the rule of law. I think recent history has shown us that countries that have open marks but choose to muzzle freedom of speech often end up only limiting their true economic potential. Some also believe a more democratic Chinese government, that is more connected to the interests and desires of its people, could also be more conducive to managing disputes peacefully. This doesn’t mean the U.S. should derail its complex relationship with Beijing over singular human rights issues, but it should mean we keep human rights issues central to our thinking and our policies.

Is there any danger of a military clash between the U.S. and China? What kind of potential threats from China should the U.S. be preparing for?

If war is an extension of politics, then conflict between the U.S. and China would theoretically result from a crisis over political differences that neither side is willing to compromise on. For the past several decades, as China’s economic growth has fueled its military modernization, Beijing has abided by Deng Xiaoping’s dictum to “bide your time and hide your capabilities.” However, over the past three or four years Beijing has begun to assert itself in a variety of areas that it previously had avoided confrontation, including territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. As China has grown more confident, it appears they are seeking to build a new relationship with the U.S. whereby they expect us to accommodate some of their interests that clash with our own. These include ending arms sales to Taiwan, abandoning efforts to adjust and modernize our military posture in the region, withdrawing from alliances and other security partnerships, ceasing sea and air reconnaissance operations around China’s periphery, and focusing less of our diplomatic attention on human rights issues in China.

More from GPS: Asia relies on U.S. to stand up to China

I don’t believe the United States should seek to accommodate Beijing’s desires on these items. Therefore, we need a diplomatic effort aimed at continuing to strengthen the rules-based order we have constructed in the region and the military capabilities required to support this strategy. Given my position on the Armed Services Committee, I am focused on the balance of military power and the continuation of regional stability. In this area, I have concerns, many of which have been exacerbated in the last decade by the combination of the PRC's rapid military modernization and our own focus of military resources elsewhere.

Correcting this military shortfall begins with admitting it exists. We have started to do that with the development of new concepts like the Joint Operational Access Concept and setting up the AirSea Battle Office to manage that limited operational concept’s implementation. Now we must take a hard look at the platforms, payloads, training, posture, and alliance questions related to supporting these concepts and our alliance commitments. As I mentioned earlier, there may be areas where we need more capabilities, better capabilities, or different capabilities that we haven't considered before. How can we best shape China’s strategic behavior? What capabilities contribute to deterrence? What capabilities are best suited for crisis management? What is the future of our nuclear posture and nuclear arms negotiations with China?

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Topics: Asia • China • United States

soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. guest

    How about going after not just China but the companies who employ under horrible conditions and what sit back and wait to die isolation means death

    July 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • Darkheart11

      Because that has less then nothing to do with military matters.

      August 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  2. guest

    if they want there product on our shelves under those conditions make them pay more to get it here or change

    July 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  3. James A Young

    It was the arms race that bankrupted the Soviet Union.
    Congressman Forbes is a Republican who complains about deficit spending but wants to follow in the Soviets budgetary mis-steps.
    If anything, we need to cut military spending and invest in infrastructure.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Reply
    • Marvin

      Sure. cut the military and make us more vulnerable.

      August 5, 2013 at 1:52 am | Reply
  4. Rick

    Is it not enough that the military budget consumes 54% of all taxes collected yearly? If we are going to be battle ready we need an enemy to fight, and frankly there isn't one out there despite the best hopes and dreams of Congressman Forbes.

    July 30, 2013 at 12:47 am | Reply
  5. sudhanshu

    while the world fights for superiority in military and other things,let me ask one thing do you worry about poor people who sleep without eating a piece of bread.. your arm races has already demolished my home i.e EARTH but you still want something or u want to ruin it. these congressman man will flee to other planets on dooms day and we all will be left to die. stop this nuisance and u.s, china thing like you guys are only on this planet,u cant decide our fate.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:22 am | Reply
  6. mike


    July 30, 2013 at 11:30 am | Reply
    • John

      You are not wrong on that! But ask why, for a moment. Because the Pentagon-Washington-DC decision makers are anti-American, we are not racists, but if you have imported 'korean-military-officers', there are several problem: *they have a different compass, *they are not gonna equip you with the best, but will use you as 'kannonenfutter', hoping that you never return home; that's why USA needs new advisors, that know the region and cultures, such as Turkey, Italy, France or Great Britain (and they are all NATO members); *no S.Korea game (not NATO member).

      August 3, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  7. Frank

    Everyone knows that not only what China is doing illegal but also violates every human right law. We, as Americans, should force China to change its way of doing business, and if they refuse to then we should look else where...

    July 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  8. RNPRN

    We don't need any more military hardware, the military is bankrupting this country. STOP the maddness of the GOP, two unpaid for wars, neither won, decimating countries and their peoples, making us less safe from terrorism. NO MORE SPENDING, SPEND OUR TAXES IN IMPROVING AMERICA.

    July 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  9. Abobakar Ibrahim

    Although non-American, i prefer the USA to be the world power considering a number of factors, i.e they are generally the most racially, religious, geo-politically and economically diverse and intergrated power with apparent concern for human rights. Like President Bush said they can also claim to be freedoms home and freedoms defender. BUT THE U.S.A DOES HAVE ITS TERRIBLE BEHAVIOURS.
    At the moment China has proved beyond reasonable doubt that their rise is not peaceful. IT SEEMS CHINA WILL FORCEFULLY TAKE TAIWAN ONCE THEY GET THE MILITARY EDGE!
    I am disappointed and really worried about the secret arms race that is going on in some countries because humans don't have a sound history of building mass murder weaponary and not using them unfortunately.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:29 am | Reply
    • andres

      Taiwan is all but taken over, the financial integration of both countries is rapidly escalating and both find great benefit from each other.

      As for the US hegemony, I am an american and I don't like it one bit. We continually screw the pooch on policiy and we fight wars that we ought not be in. US hegemony has a very dark side to it, not only is it bleeding our country dry, it sucks the life blood out of other countries through the IMF and World bank. We have over 770 bases world wide and we ought not to have them. And now this congressman who is nothing more that a w hore for the defence industry is calling for more defence spending. No thank you!

      July 31, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  10. Abobakar Ibrahim

    By the way it is far too late for the U.S.A to get involved in the Syrian conflict.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:53 am | Reply
  11. Matt

    Classic starcraft dilema; economic or military focus. Same decisions/repercussions apply.

    August 1, 2013 at 1:57 am | Reply
  12. Call me Bwana

    And just where is the money going to come from?

    August 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  13. Mark O. David

    The U.S. defense budget gets 56$ for every 1$ that is allocated to the dept of the Interior.And you ask why? the country is going to hell?Not a hard question to answer/

    August 2, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  14. EA Marco Polo

    [Greatest theory and prediction]

    The world is changing, and the change follows the profound "New World Center Theory". From 1519 to 2019 Europe is the world center, after 2019 East Asia will replace Europe as new world center for next 500 years. Nothing could stop the great trend.

    In 2025 Mainland China's GDP and military will surpass the US and the EU forever. In 2050 China's (Mainland China + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong + Macau) GDP will exceed the US + the EU forever.

    August 3, 2013 at 7:37 am | Reply
    • David

      China will not last as a cohesive state-its diverse ethnic groups and religions cannot be centrally controlled much longer. The central committee cannot survive as a communist based authority and simultaneouslu allow the oligarchy that is arising . Soon the country will fragment.

      August 5, 2013 at 3:33 am | Reply
  15. EA Marco Polo

    [Best policy for the US]

    On the US long term benefit, the US government must change his harmful behavior. The US government murders 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens and 4500 US soldiers for promoting US military budget; so Iraq is forced from Iran's enemy to become Iran's friendly ally.

    Lots of innocent Muslims are also murdered by the US lies and violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. Now 52000 sinless Syrian are killed by the US violence, possibly other 48000 sinless Syrian will be slaughtered by the US government.

    Thus the US government is worst country on violating human right on the earth in the 21st century.

    August 3, 2013 at 7:52 am | Reply
  16. EA Marco Polo

    The US government also bullied 2.2 million US citizens in crowded US jail. 2.2 million is about half of world prisoners. According to the indication – incarceration rate, is the US the most immoral country? Some of the terrible big military budget should be changed using on improving the too crowded US jails for the US citizens.

    August 3, 2013 at 8:05 am | Reply
  17. aurelius

    More must be done to improve our capabilities in cyberspace and prevent snitches like Snowden to continue their destructive work. For that reason the screening process of personnel working for intelligence agencies must be totally revamped. Snowden, a sub contractor to NSA, was never able to join that elite group with only a high school degree and his clearances should have reflected that. That "inferiority" complex may have been the cause of his betrayal. Certainly not justice and morality since he is accepting the protection our Putin, a leader who is totally despise by freedom and democracy lovers throughout the world.

    August 3, 2013 at 8:42 am | Reply
  18. Darkheart11

    Yes, we lost it some time ago. So far we can hold our own against third worlders because they are HUNGRY and very poorly trained if at all. But against a modern, national force we back to PRE-WWII levels. On our way even lower.

    As for the troops,,,,,!!!

    Three out of every four boys are totally unfit for induction, they are too far and/or too doped up, having trained Americans in arms and the military it would take six WEEKS to get the boys ready for Basic Combat Training. The girls are no better.

    Thank you liberals for that.

    August 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  19. Marvin


    August 5, 2013 at 3:58 am | Reply
  20. easyrhino

    Israel gets $3,000,000,000+ US tax-payer dollars handed to them each year despite the fact that the've admitted and apologized for re-exporting US weapons technology to China.

    Who is our real enemy?

    August 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Reply
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