FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1/12/22
Contact: Jordan Dunn
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower, today addressed the Surface Navy Association’s 34th National Symposium and participated in a panel discussion with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). During his remarks, the congressman highlighted the need to abandon buzzwords like Integrated Deterrence and focus on building a Battle Force that is ready to fight by 2025.
Read highlights from the congressman’s address, as well as the congressman’s remarks as they were prepared for delivery, below:
On enhancing force posture in the Indo-Pacific:
“The Indo-Pacific is home to three American territories including Guam and eight possessions such as Midway and Wake. Many of these islands contributed to the defense of our nation during the Second World War and they can do so again. If there’s an operationally useful piece of dry ground in the Pacific under an American flag, we need to ensure it has the ability to host long-range anti-air and anti-surface fires, ISR assets, or contribute as a logistics node.”
“Speaking of Hawaii, the current unavailability of Red Hill is completely unacceptable…Red Hill’s hardened fuel reserves make it an indispensable asset in war time and in many ways, it serves as the beating heart of America’s Pacific posture. While we have to ensure safe operations, we need all hands on deck to do whatever it takes to get Red Hill back online now.”
On creatively using existing platforms to contribute:
“We absolutely, positively need to move out on DDG (X) to ensure our surface fleet is competitive into the 2030s and beyond. From where I’m sitting, we’re caught in a triangle of distrust between the Navy, industry, and Congress. Here’s what I’d propose: the Department should commit to funding 2 large surface combatants a year for let’s say, 10 years, during which the transition from Flight III Burkes to DDG (X) occurs. Congress in turn would commit to fully funding the DDG (X) program. From there, the Navy should provide a plan to both Congress and industry to move forward from 2 Flight IIIs per year to 2 DDG (X)s per year over a 3-5 year transition. While the next-gen DDG won’t be online for a 2020s fight, my point is we can build Battle Force 2025 without neglecting longer-term modernization priorities.”
On better preparing Taiwan for a protracted siege:
“In any Taiwan scenario, particularly a full-scale invasion, we have to expect a pre-emptive cyber attack against our domestic infrastructure as well as disinformation campaign on an unprecedented scale designed to confuse and delay the response both within Taiwan and across the international community…And the thing is, disinformation doesn’t have to fool the entire world in perpetuity in order to be effective—it just has to slow us down as we try to surge forces forward and potentially convince would-be allies that Taiwan’s cause was already lost, thus fracturing our international (dare I say integrated) response. We have to get ahead of the curve by ensuring the IC & State Department have staffing, the capacity and the SOPs in place to call out Taiwan-related disinformation in real-time.”
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thanks to Vice Admiral Blake, Vice Admiral Hunt, and everyone at SNA. It’s great to be back for a 3rd time in 5 years. It’s a critical time. Soon we will have a new National Defense Strategy and Secretary Austin has suggested that the intellectual foundation of the forthcoming NDS will be something called Integrated Deterrence. This raises a question: what does Secretary Austin want to integrate into deterrence that was not integrated before. Thus far Secretary Austin has suggested he wants to integrate new technology, allies, and non-military instruments of national power, especially diplomacy, across five domains of competition (air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace) into deterrence. As he explained, integrated deterrence could “mean employing cyber effects in one location to respond to a maritime security incident hundreds of miles away. Integrated deterrence means all of us giving our all.”
Many would support the idea that all of us should give our all, but some might suggest that there is nothing new about this concept. For example, the Trump administration responded to a maritime security incident hundreds of miles of way by employing cyber effects against Iran. Yet Iran didn’t back down until we killed Qassem Soleimani with conventional weapons. As for allies, well they care less about nice diplomatic rhetoric than what our military can actually do, and images of the U.S. military heading for the exits ignominiously in Afghanistan in the face of a technologically backward force do not inspire confidence. Diplomacy that is not backed by a combat credible threat of military force cannot deter. As for technology, how long have we been waiting, like Godot, for a third offset that will magically save us from having to make hard budget decisions. And if Admiral Davidson is right that China could invade Taiwan in the next five years, betting on tomorrow’s transformative technology makes less sense than fielding reliable technologies that work today.
What we actually need to integrate into deterrence is more conventional hard power — more ships, more long-range missiles and more long-range bombers in the Indo-Pacific, things that will make the PLA think twice. My concern is that integrated deterrence is the latest in a series of Pentagon buzzwords that ultimately serve as smokescreens for disinvesting in defense and making do with a force that is too small to meet global requirements. This jargon provides pseudo-intellectual cover for political leadership that is too weak or too distracted to give the military what it needs to execute its missions or to make hard choices between the military services that would free up resources for the main effort: deterring China from invading Taiwan. Platitudes such as “Integrated deterrence means all of us giving our all” cloud our thinking and give false hope that nonmilitary tools, new technologies and allies can somehow substitute for hard power when it comes to denying aggression from our adversaries.
So that’s the bad news. If the new NDS walks away from the 2018 NDS’s useful concept of deterrence by denial in favor of integrated deterrence, it will reduce our ability to deny a fait accompli over Taiwan, and therefore make one more likely either through preemptive surrender or battlefield defeat. The good news is that we can prevent this from happening. It is within our power to get our act together by abandoning vacuous buzzwords and just doing the hard work of building a Battle Force that is ready to fight not by 2045, but by 2025. Here are a few thoughts on how we can get started.
The first step involves enhancing our force posture in the Indo-Pacific.
A decade ago this month, the Department released the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, which confidently declared “we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” Yet all these years later, its hard to see where exactly America’s physical footprint in the region is larger than it was back then. It’s not for a lack of available options. The Indo-Pacific is home to three American territories including Guam and eight possessions such as Midway and Wake. Many of these islands contributed to the defense of our nation during the Second World War and they can do so again. If there’s an operationally useful piece of dry ground in the Pacific under an American flag, we need to ensure it has the ability to host long-range anti-air and anti-surface fires, ISR assets, or contribute as a logistics node. As missile technology improves, some of these islands may play a role in providing firepower that stretches to the first island chain. Even before then, these islands would make critical contributions targeting Chinese forces that venture too far east.
We must prepare for the reality that a war that starts in the territorial waters around Taiwan may not stay there. Restoring an American military presence across the Pacific is essential to establishing a defense in depth. Each island that hosts American forces and missiles can contribute to sea and air control across a wide radius that allows us to better dominate east of the first island chain, and along with hardening existing bases, can ensure the defense of American citizens in Guam and Hawaii.
Speaking of Hawaii, the current unavailability of Red Hill is completely unacceptable. Let’s not forget that when Alfred Thayer Mahan advocated for the strategic importance of what was then known as the Sandwich Islands, it was first and foremost as a coaling station central both to the defense of the continental United States and to power projection into Asia. Red Hill’s hardened fuel reserves make it an indispensable asset in war time and in many ways, it serves as the beating heart of America’s Pacific posture. While we have to ensure safe operations, we need all hands on deck to do whatever it takes to get Red Hill back online now.
The second thing we can do is creatively use existing platforms and systems so that they can better contribute to a 2025 fight.
Along with everyone in this room, I want a bigger Navy, and a larger surface fleet in particular. Sign me up for as many ships as we can possibly build each year, ideally in Northeast Wisconsin. But ships that we are budgeting for this year or next aren’t going to be ready for combat if war breaks out in the next five years, even if we increase the SCN account.
So what can we do in the near term? An obvious starting point is to protect and use the force structure we currently have. Take LCS. I know all the jokes. But these ships are in the fleet and more are coming. We are in no position to turn away hulls that could contribute to the fight, even in unusual ways. For example, the Marine Corps needs a stopgap craft to enable distributed operations until the Light Amphibious Warship comes online in meaningful numbers. Building on some of the recent work from the Navy and Admiral Kitchener in particular, let’s put some Marines equipped with anti-ship missiles onboard and see if the LCS can be a littoral launch point for expeditionary operations. You could also use the LCS as a mothership for unmanned swarms or as a command and control node.
Or consider the 7 cruisers that the Navy proposed retiring in FY 22, which in terms of missile tube capacity, possess more striking power than all the surface combatants of the Royal Navy combined. We need to think creatively about how at least some of these ships could contribute in new roles. The oldest cruisers could receive modest upgrades to rely on third-party Aegis targeting to provide air defense or surface strike capabilities while remaining in port. Others could contribute as missile barges. These wouldn’t be glamorous commands, but they could be important commands that keep valuable VLS cells in the fight.
Likewise, we need to think outside the box for the Flight I Burkes that are approaching their planned retirement dates. Rather than cycling these assets out of the fleet, let’s start thinking now about creative ways they could contribute. One idea is to repurpose their forward areas for conventional prompt strike as it comes online towards the back half of the decade.
Now let me cheat for a minute and talk about a longer term item. We absolutely, positively need to move out on DDG (X) to ensure our surface fleet is competitive into the 2030s and beyond. From where I’m sitting, we’re caught in a triangle of distrust between the Navy, industry, and Congress. Here’s what I’d propose: the Department should commit to funding 2 large surface combatants a year for let’s say, 10 years, during which the transition from Flight III Burkes to DDG (X) occurs. Congress in turn would commit to fully funding the DDG (X) program. From there, the Navy should provide a plan to both Congress and industry to move forward from 2 Flight IIIs per year to 2 DDG (X)s per year over a 3-5 year transition. While the next-gen DDG won’t be online for a 2020s fight, my point is we can build Battle Force 2025 without neglecting longer-term modernization priorities.
The final line of effort I want to talk about involves preparing Taiwan for a protracted siege.
The only short war for Taiwan would be a quick Chinese victory. If we’re going to win, we’ll have to buy time to amass assets in the region while denying the Chinese invasion. I’m concerned that our planning has not caught up to this reality, and our wargames don’t even integrate financial and economic warfare into their scenarios. However many munitions, logistics nodes, and fleet enablers we think we will need, we will need more. This goes for Taiwan itself, which needs enormous quantities of not only anti-ship and anti-air missiles and mines, but also enough food, water, and other essential supplies to enable the island’s defenders to weather a blockade that could last months or even years.
Some of these defenders on the ground should be American. We should expand training missions in Taiwan, particularly when it comes to pairing National Guard units with Taiwan’s reserve forces, and regularly send senior military leaders to Taiwan to engage with counterparts and see the relevant wartime terrain with their own eyes. CyberCom should send Defend Forward cyber teams to Taiwan. We also need to be building the operational planning structures we will need ahead of time while incorporating allies like Japan and Australia. This includes re-establishing Joint Task Force Five One Nine under INDO-PACOM to run point on contingency planning in the region and re-establishing the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Command to fully integrate wartime planning with Taiwan.
Taiwan is also the target of the most foreign government-disseminated disinformation in the world. In any Taiwan scenario, particularly a full-scale invasion, we have to expect a pre-emptive cyber attack against our domestic infrastructure as well as disinformation campaign on an unprecedented scale designed to confuse and delay the response both within Taiwan and across the international community. AEI’s Klon Kitchen has been doing a lot of great work in this space. One scenario he’s been warning about that I find particularly troubling is the use of deepfakes. In the event that Taipei’s communications are blocked, you could easily imagine deepfakes of President Tsai purporting to announce a surrender. And the thing is, disinformation doesn’t have to fool the entire world in perpetuity in order to be effective—it just has to slow us down as we try to surge forces forward and potentially convince would-be allies that Taiwan’s cause was already lost, thus fracturing our international (dare I say integrated) response. We have to get ahead of the curve by ensuring the IC & State Department have staffing, the capacity and the SOPs in place to call out Taiwan-related disinformation in real-time. We should also encourage nations like Ukraine and Georgia, who have experienced Russia disinformation in war, to collaborate with Taiwan and share lessons-learned.
So those are just a few ideas about how to move forward, but I’m worried we are going backward.
You see five years ago, as a naïve freshman member of congress and a precocious new member of the Seapower subcommittee, I came here to SNA for the first time and argued that with better public diplomacy we could generate enough support build the navy the nation needs. I was wrong about that. Our problem is actually much worse than I understood back then. Our surface navy has suffered more self-inflicted wounds. Our Pentagon leaders cannot explain, in simple, non-jargony prose, how we intend to deter the PLA from invading Taiwan. And too many of our political leaders seem focused on role playing as C-list social media celebrities.
But there are bright spots. For one I’m here with my friend Elaine, who brings enormous experience to this discussion, we work together in a bipartisan manner to advocate for American Seapower, and thus far the Armed Services Committee has not been sucked into the same partisan vortex that has destroyed the rest of Congress. Second, every year I get to nominate young men and women to go to the Naval academy and they keep getting more impressive. Finally, the last two years have revealed the full depravity of our enemy, the Chinese communist party, and I believe the American people are waking up to the threat. We now have a window, a fleeting window to be sure but a window nonetheless, in which to Build Battle Force 2025 and thereby both prevent World War 3 and save the free world. This sounds like fun. Our task is simple, but not easy. As Chesty Puller said the last time America fought the Chinese Communists: “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us. They can’t get away now.”
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