China Competition Requires Serious Investments In Defense Industrial Base
‘But closing the gap with China - and outcompeting our biggest strategic adversary - will require more than innovation theater or speeches about revolutions in military affairs. Real progress will require real investments in long-range strike capabilities. Real expansion of our defense production capacity. Real defense technology cooperation with our closest allies who increasingly share our concerns about the PLA.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding competition with China:
“In the past two months, the Chinese government has reminded the world just how an authoritarian communist state operates.
“In July, President Xi announced he had replaced the PRC’s foreign minister after the official hadn’t been seen in public in a month. Then, the senior official responsible for the PLA strategic missile force, who hadn’t been seen for even longer, was replaced. And then China’s defense minister went missing for weeks before Beijing announced he had been fired and detained for investigation.
“The purge of senior leaders. Growing economic volatility. Bellicose foreign policy. These are concerning developments in a country with a reputation for repression at home and belligerence abroad.
“China’s neighbors and global powers alike are increasingly skeptical of official economic and budget numbers from a dictatorship that suppresses free speech, mocks the rule of law, and simply disappears its senior leaders – and rightly so!
“One thing has long been certain: the PRC is arming itself at an alarming rate.
“Recent estimates suggest China spends close to $700 billion per year on defense. That’s concerning for a number of reasons. First, a much larger percentage of China’s defense budget than ours goes to modernization and capabilities.
“Further, since Chinese geostrategic ambitions – for now at least – are focused primarily on challenging the status quo in its immediate region, the PRC doesn’t face the resource constraints that the United States does due to our global interests and power projection requirements.
“Beijing’s decades-long modernization campaign has paid dividends for the PRC. Just last week, the Wall Street Journal detailed the significant progress China has made in testing and fielding hypersonic weapons – and how such efforts have outpaced those of our own country.
“America also lags in shipbuilding. The infrastructure constraints that keep us from building more ships, testing more hypersonic vehicles, and training more pilots are well known.
“But the cold truth is that China, which has a shipbuilding capacity more than 200 times that of the United States, is set to reach 400 ships in two years while the U.S. Navy is aiming for 350 ships by 2045.
“This is precisely why Senate Republicans, led by Senator Shelby and Senator Wicker, pushed for an amendment to the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure framework to create a Defense Infrastructure Fund and expand our capacity for testing, training, and production. Unfortunately, the Democratic Leader didn’t allow this amendment to receive a vote.
“For what it’s worth, I appreciate the Pentagon’s recent efforts to catch up. For example, the Deputy Secretary of Defense recently announced an initiative to dramatically accelerate production of autonomous systems to help level the playing field with the PLA. Her remarks were titled ‘The Urgency to Innovate’.
“But closing the gap with China – and outcompeting our biggest strategic adversary – will require more than innovation theater or speeches about revolutions in military affairs.
“Real progress will require real investments in long-range strike capabilities. Real expansion of our defense production capacity. Real defense technology cooperation with our closest allies who increasingly share our concerns about the PLA.
“The conflict in Ukraine has finally motivated efforts in America, Europe, and Asia to invest in our defense industrial bases, but if we truly take competition with the PRC seriously, there is a lot more that needs to be done.
“AUKUS – our technology-sharing partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom – is a step in the right direction. In fact, it will hopefully serve as a model for expanding defense cooperation with other allies. But these efforts cannot come at the expense of properly funding America’s own requirements for crucial systems like attack submarines.
“The Department’s interest in autonomous systems, hypersonic weapons, and long-range fires is welcome, but the Pentagon needs to move at the speed of relevance to field these capabilities as soon as possible.
“And the Biden Administration needs to stop sending Congress defense budget requests that cut funding after inflation and start prioritizing serious investments in the weapons we actually need.”
Related Issues: America's Military, China, National Security