NORFOLK, VA — House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Vice-Chair Elaine Luria penned an Op-Ed in today’s Wall Street Journal on the “Say-Do Gap” in the U.S. approach to China, arguing that what the Pentagon “says” about Beijing does not match what the current budget request “does.”
“Military leaders identify China as our number one challenge, often calling Beijing ‘an increasingly capable strategic competitor,’ as Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has warned, or a ‘pacing’ threat. Yet the budget request reduces the ability of the Navy and the Air Force—the services that would have outsize roles in any conflict in the Western Pacific—to respond to threats in that region,” Vice-Chair Luria wrote. “Meanwhile, the budget promises undeveloped weapons that may take decades to enter the fleet, funded by a ‘divest to invest’ strategy.”
Vice-Chair Luria has consistently advocated for a 3-5 percent annual increase in defense spending and supported policies to counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) influence and aggression. At an oversight hearing in April, she pressed military and foreign policy experts on the need for an increased INDOPACOM presence to respond to the threat posed by PRC’s rising navy. Last month, Congresswoman Luria co-introduced the Arctic Security Initiative Act of 2021, legislation requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a security assessment of the Arctic region and establish an Arctic Security Initiative (ASI) with a five-year plan to fully resource the DOD and individual service-specific strategies for the Arctic. In the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Congresswoman Luria successfully advocated for the inclusion of $2.2 billion to combat the growing threat of China through the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
Vice-Chair Luria is a House co-sponsor of the SHIPYARD Act, a $25 billion investment in American Shipyards.
You can read the Op-Ed here and below:
Does the Pentagon Take China Seriously?
By Rep. Elaine Luria
Our national defense leaders have a problem: What they say doesn’t line up with what they do. The mismatch is apparent in the latest Pentagon budget, and a “say-do” gap undermines the trust of Congress and the American people.
Military leaders identify China as our No. 1 challenge, often calling Beijing “an increasingly capable strategic competitor,” as Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has warned, or a “pacing” threat. Yet the budget request reduces the ability of the Navy and the Air Force—the services that would have outsize roles in any conflict in the Western Pacific—to respond to threats in that region. Meanwhile, the budget promises undeveloped weapons that may take decades to enter the fleet, funded by a “divest to invest” strategy.
The Navy wants to retire 15 ships, including seven guided-missile cruisers and four littoral combat ships, while procuring only two surface combatant ships and two submarines. (Fortunately, Congress’s budget draft would buy another destroyer and limit the retirements.) Naval aviation procurement dropped 15.6% over 2021 even as the Navy speeds up F/A-18 retirements. The USS Ronald Reagan, based in Japan to counter a threat from China, is overseeing the Afghanistan withdrawal in the Middle East because no other aircraft carrier is available. Meanwhile, China is building warships at an astonishing rate. In 2010, the U.S. Navy had 68 more ships than the Chinese Navy. Today, we have 63 fewer, a swing of 131 ships in 10 years.
The Air Force is also following the Pentagon’s “divest to invest” lead. Combat aircraft procurement is down 22% from 2021. The force wants to retire 137 aircraft, more than double the number it plans to buy. After the retirement of 17 B-1s last year, the Air Force’s bomber inventory is at a level top officers have called the bare minimum. Ammunition procurement is down more than 40%. China in recent years has focused on procuring advanced aircraft and has the world’s third-largest air force. In addition, China has an extensive ground-based conventional missile force, including the DF-26, known as the “carrier killer,” and capable of striking Guam.
The defense budget tells the American people and allies that although we say China is a threat, we are not taking action to respond. Take Gen. Milley’s June 17 assessment of the threat that China will invade Taiwan: “I think the probability is probably low, in the immediate, near-term future.”
This directly contradicts statements by Adm. John Aquilino, the Pacific combatant commander, who testified that China could be prepared to take Taiwan by force in the next six years: “We’ve seen things that I don’t think we expected, and that’s why I continue to talk about a sense of urgency.”
Congress has a duty to close the “say-do” gap, whether through increased funding or redirecting other Pentagon dollars, and to provide the resources needed to deter China. If you believe Adm. Aquilino—and I do—we may not have another year to waste.