President Joe Biden’s $886.3 billion Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) defense budget request includes $842 billion for the Pentagon, a $26 billion, or 3.2 percent, increase over this year’s military spending plan with the “growing multi-domain threat posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” again named the nation’s most pressing “pacing challenge.”
Both Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III used the same phrase in describing the proposed military budget’s emphasis on China, each calling it “the most strategy aligned military budget” in the nation’s history.
“Nowhere is that alignment more pronounced than in the seriousness with which this budget treats strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” Hicks told reporters in Washington on March 13. “Our greatest measure of success—and the one we use around here most often—is to make sure the [Chinese] leadership wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression and concludes, ‘Today is not the day.’”
“As our national defense strategy makes clear, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is our pacing challenge,” Austin said in a March 13 statement. “As the PRC races to modernize its military, this budget will sharpen our edge by making critical investments across all timeframes, theaters, and domains. Among numerous important actions that bolster our combat credibility in the short term, this budget makes the department’s largest-ever investments in readiness and procurement–and our largest investment in research and development.”
China’s extensive military modernization over the last decade and increasingly aggressive posture in the South China Sea, where it is building bases on man-made islands straddling sea and air trade routes, and in menacing Taiwan, are reflected in how the Pentagon wants to spend money in the coming years.
Planning a South China Sea Bloodbath
The FY24 military budget request includes $170 million for new weapons and ships, “the largest procurement budget in the nation’s history” and $61 billion to “develop, modernize and procure lethal air power” in direct challenge to China’s investments in naval and air defense advances in the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific theater of operations.
The proposed spending plan includes $48.1 billion for three new submarines and four destroyers/frigates designed to thwart a Chinese Navy that, numerically, is the world’s largest.
The Pentagon is seeking $13.9 billion for 80 amphibious combat vehicles for the Marine Corps, and 91 armored multipurpose vehicles for the Army and—in direct response to China investments—$29.8 billion for missile “defeat and defense” programs and $11 billion to develop hypersonic and long-range subsonic missiles.
The FY 2024 budget request also includes $9.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), a 40-percent increase over this year’s budget to enhance “resilient and distributed air basing, new missile warning and tracking architecture, construction to enable enhanced posture … and multinational information sharing, training, and experimentation.”
Austin said the boost in PDI spending and integration is pivotal in developing “advanced capabilities, new operational concepts, and more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific region. It also enables groundbreaking posture initiatives in Guam, Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Japan, and Australia.”
US Is China’s No. 1 Threat
While in the United States, Pentagon planners identify China as the top “pacing challenge,” in Beijing, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planners identify the United States as their top threat.
China’s upcoming annual military budget, announced during the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress (NPC) that concluded March 13 in Beijing, increases its defense spending by 7.2 percent to 1.55 trillion yuan, or $224 billion.
The increase marks the second consecutive year the Chinese hiked military spending by at least 7 percent and marks the first time in a decade its defense budget increased three years in a row.
China’s military budget calls for its armed forces to “intensify military training and preparedness across the board, develop new military strategic guidance, devote greater energy to training under combat conditions and make well-coordinated efforts to strengthen military work in all directions and domains.”
In addition to pumping out ships—especially submarines—to constitute the world’s largest Navy, it is building a sophisticated network of stealth fighter jets, long-distance missiles, and “air access denial” defenses designed to “push [potential enemy combatants] away from the fight,” Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) China Mission Group Chief Doug Wade during a March 14 National Security Alliance “Coffee & Conversation” seminar.
The amount of air, missile, and naval firepower that the Chinese could pour into the South China Sea and across Southeast Asia “worry me a lot,” Wade said.
Chinese say they need to increase military spending because the United States and other countries in the region, most notably Australia and the Philippines, are doing so.
During a March 11 press conference in Beijing, NPC spokesperson Wang Chao said China’s defense budget is “relatively moderate” with a “reasonable growth rate” that has remained stable as a percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 2015.
“It remains basically stable, lower than the world average,” Wang said.
No Taiwan Invasion Expected
China’s $224 billion military budget is not much more than a quarter of the Pentagon’s $886.3 billion in defense spending, but Wade said thwarting China’s ambitions will require as much economic integration as complementary military investment by allied nations engaged “in strategic competition with China.”
Wade said China is heavily investing in military and “influence” applications for Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, hypersonic missiles, and in operations to fight wars in space, and deny access to space to its enemies, which also concerns the DIA.
“Space is a real issue,” he said, noting China is restructuring its “robust space program, second only to the United States,” across “a full spectrum of activities,” including “counter space activities.
“China sees space as a potential vulnerability for the United States,” Wade said, and it has set out to “dominate in that domain” while striving to dominate “in all other war-fighting domains.”
He said “the totality” of China’s military modernization has been “really just kind of awesome” to observe over the last decade, with the effort spanning “many different elements.”
Defense analysts are carefully watching how Chinese military leaders “use their assets, how they pull together” to synchronize and multiply impact, Wade said.
“It is the totality of how they pull it together that is the most impressive aspect” of China’s military growth, he said.
The DIA does not see China preparing to invade Taiwan anytime soon.
“When you look at how China might apply military pressure at Taiwan, [it] will likely start well below the threshold of a conflict with a variety of activities, starting with cyber, [naval] blockade, increasing violations of Taiwan’s air defense zone, and territorial encroachments by naval forces,” Wade said, adding U.S. intelligence agencies are “well-positioned” to monitor, anticipate, and respond to China military activities
“President Xi has made it clear that China does not want to resort to force but hasn’t ruled it out” in bringing Taiwan into the PRC, he said. “China doesn’t want to start a fight over Taiwan.”
Nevertheless, the DIA projects “an increasingly confrontational period” between the United States and China militaries and anticipates antagonistic “cyber behavior” and “assertive behavior in the South China Sea” by China to continue.
Wade said the agency sees China’s economic relationships as its primary source of strength and something the United States must counter with enhanced economic-military-intelligence “partnerships” with nations that oppose “totalitarianism” and seek “rules-based order” to world commerce.
A “rising China” is exerting itself in areas of contention with the United States and other nations, he said, but both nations are also intimately engaged in a vast range of daily interactions and programs that provide opportunity “to engage China in a constructive way.”
“There are different avenues where the U.S.-China could work on issues of common concern” in places such as Africa, and on issues such as climate change and international trade, where the two nations already share “productive partnerships” with each other.
”We don’t always see eye-to-eye,” Wade said, but the United States and China can “maximize those partnerships across common areas of concern” rather than allow the conversation to “slide only into areas we see each other as competitors and threats.”
From The Epoch Times