The U.S. has pledged to deploy so much firepower to the Indo-Pacific in 2023 that China won’t even consider invading Taiwan. Lawmakers and allies say it’s already too late.
The promise is a big one: “2023 is likely to stand as the most transformative year in U.S. force posture in the region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in early December.
But GOP lawmakers say the Pentagon faces a stiff challenge in delivering on that pledge. That’s because Beijing now wields a navy large enough — backed by air power and “carrier killer” ballistic missiles — to challenge longtime U.S. naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific. And deliveries to Taiwan of billions of dollars in U.S. arms are backlogged, due to supply chain issues related to the pandemic and exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict.
“We have a rhetorical commitment to a force posture change in the Indo-Pacific, but that’s belied by the reality of what’s actually happening,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who will become chair of the new House Select Committee on China in the next Congress. He called Ratner’s assertions the military planning equivalent of “whistling past the graveyard.”
Those familiar with U.S. military strength in the region agree.
Facing down China’s military threat will “require a larger navy force structure than we have in the foreseeable future,” said Alexander Gray, former chief of staff of the National Security Council in the Trump administration.
That’s fueling fears that Beijing could exploit its growing naval power advantage to launch an invasion of Taiwan before the U.S. military can catch up, sparking a devastating regional conflict that would force the UnitedStates to either intervene or abandon its promise to protect the self-governing island.