There isn’t enough time for the U.S. to build a fleet of warships large enough to fend off a Chinese invasion of Taiwan by the end of the decade but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any options to protect American interests and allies, a key Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.
Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin told a Heritage Foundation audience that the Pentagon needs to use the resources it has more creatively to deter a Chinese cross-strait invasion. He noted that retired Adm. Philip Davidson, a former commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, assessed that Beijing may make a move on Taiwan by the end of the decade — a period that has come to be known as the “Davidson Window.”
President Biden’s defense budget will force the Navy to reduce its fleet size to 280 ships and leave the Air Force forced to cut more than 100 airplanes by 2027, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army and the target date for China having the capability to take Taiwan, Mr. Gallagher said.
“Most of the transformative technology [the Pentagon] is investing in with its much-hyped 9.5% increase in research and development dollars, from hypersonic weapons to ‘Joint All Domain Command and Control,’ may not be fielded until the 2030s, if at all,” he said. “Making matters worse, we’re running low on the munitions that are essential to both Ukraine and Taiwan.”
The U.S. won’t be able to rebuild the Navy to where it needs to be within the next five years, Mr. Gallagher said.
“What we can do, however, is build an ‘anti-Navy,’” he said. “By anti-Navy, I mean asymmetric forces and weapons designed to target the Chinese navy, deny control of the seas surrounding Taiwan, and prevent [People’s Liberation Army] amphibious forces from gaining a lodgment on the island.”
The first step would be surging long-range conventional precision fires in concentric rings across the Pacific – ranging from the so-called “First Island Chain” on China’s coastline, which would include the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, and the Philippines, all the way out to Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia. Army and Marine Corps troops would operate the short-range anti-ship missiles to secure the zone.
The second step would be stockpiling munitions in the region before the shooting starts, Mr. Gallagher said.
“At current production rates, for example, it will take at least two years to boost Javelin production from 2,100 to 4,000 missiles annually. In many cases, Chinese companies are the sole source or a primary supplier for the … materials used in our missiles,” Mr. Gallagher said.
The third step would be arming Taiwan “to the teeth.” That would mean moving them to the front of the Foreign Military Sales line and clearing the backlog of $14 billion worth of foreign military sales items that have been approved but not delivered, he said.
“Congress can go further by providing direct financial assistance to Taiwan and by giving the Pentagon the same drawdown authority to directly provide defense articles to Taiwan that it already has with Ukraine,” he said.
The Pentagon should also send Taiwan the U.S. Harpoon missiles that are now destined for the scrap yard or long-term storage — similar to the drawdown authority that has boosted Ukraine’s military stockpile.
The GOP lawmaker faulted the Biden administration for not doing more to reassure a critical ally.
“We don’t lack options, we lack leadership,” he said. “We lack leadership in the Pentagon capable of bending the bureaucracy to their will, in service of a defense strategy that prioritizes hard power,” Mr. Gallagher said. “We lack leadership in the White House that understands the paradox of deterrence: that to avoid war, you must convince your adversary that you are both capable and willing to wage war.”
Mr. Gallagher, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who deployed twice to Iraq, will likely get a subcommittee chairmanship if the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections. He said the GOP will have a “very productive agenda” if that happens, including taking an ax to a Pentagon civilian bureaucracy that is larger than the size of the Army.
“The military has two purposes — to fight wars and train to fight wars,” Mr. Gallagher said, paraphrasing Marine Corps doctrine. “Anything that does not contribute to our warfighting ability should not be funded.”
Pentagon leaders can also expect to face sharp questions about diversity and inclusion programs strongly backed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and senior military leaders under Mr. Biden. Critics, including a number of senior Republicans on Capitol Hill, have been scathing in their criticisms of what they call a “woke military.”
“The North Star for all of our efforts has to be warfighting,” Mr. Gallagher said. “I think you’re going to see a change and I think the American people are going to support that change.”