The House China Committee on Wednesday advanced 10 bipartisan recommendations to deter China from attacking Taiwan, which the panel hopes will be included in the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.
The committee agreed by voice vote to advance the Taiwan proposals, drafted as a response to April table top war games led by the Center for a New American Security. Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., was the only lawmaker to vote no.
“At the select committee’s Taiwan war game, we saw the terrifying result of deterrence failure,” Gallagher said in advance of the vote. “If we want to have a hope of stopping World War III, we need to arm Taiwan to the teeth right now. We must clear the embarrassment that is the $19 billion [foreign military sale] backlog.”
The 10 recommendations include establishing a war reserve stockpile of weapons in Taiwan, prioritizing weapons delivery for Taipei and authorizing multiyear munitions procurement contracts. The proposals also call for hardening and distributing American forces throughout the Indo-Pacific region and expanding training and coordination between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries.
The war games illustrated the difficulty the U.S. would have arming Taiwan in the event of a China crisis, the same way it has for Ukraine given the lack of a land border. To preposition critical weapons on the island, the China Committee wants the Pentagon to establish a war reserve stockpile for Taiwan and other Pacific allies akin to U.S. Central Command’s stockpile in Israel.
The FY23 National Defense Authorization Act authorized $500 million in funding through 2025 for a “regional contingency stockpile” in the Pacific. The Pentagon is using a separate authority in that bill to prepare a package of weapons for Taiwan from U.S. stockpiles.
Another recommendation is quarterly updates on the Biden administration’s efforts to address the foreign military sales backlog, especially for Taiwan. The report calls on congressional appropriations to provide “grant assistance” for Taiwan to buy more U.S. equipment.
The FY23 NDAA authorized up to $2 billion in Taiwanese military aid, but congressional appropriators decided to fund that as loans instead of grants amid concerns it would eat away at other State Department budget priorities.
The war games found the U.S. would run out of precision-guided missiles within a week in the event of a conflict with China, and Gallagher is leading a push to get appropriators on board with funding multiyear munitions procurement authorities.
Hoping to send a strong demand signal for the defense industry to ramp up munitions production, the China Committee wants the FY24 NDAA to authorize up to five years of munitions procurement contracts for long-range anti-ship missiles, naval strike missiles, precision strike missiles, MK-48 torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Multiyear procurement authorities historically have been used for big-ticket items like ships and aircraft, but the Pentagon and some lawmakers have recently expressed interest in using them for munitions acquisition to encourage defense companies to ramp up production amid concern about insufficient U.S. stockpiles.
The FY23 NDAA sought to jump-start high-priority U.S. munitions production by authorizing multiyear procurement contracts for thousands of critical munitions, but congressional appropriators for the most part did not provide the needed funding. Gallagher told Defense News in an April interview he’s lobbying appropriators to fund multiyear munitions procurement this year.
The panel also recommends expanded base access with allies and partners throughout the region, and says “Congress should direct the U.S. military to invest in passive defenses, such as hardened fuel depots and other logistics facilities, and reserve supplies and direct the U.S. Air Force to increase resourcing for fielding deployable airbase sets at U.S. bases in theater.”
The remaining recommendations are:
- Building upon an FY23 NDAA provision to “establish or expand a comprehensive training program with Taiwan”
- Establishing a U.S.-Taiwan combined planning group
- Establishing a standing joint force headquarters or joint task force in the Pacific
- Bolstering U.S. cybersecurity
- Passing Gallagher’s bill to help bolster Taiwan’s cybersecurity
- Planning with U.S. allies to impose diplomatic and economic costs on China in the event of a Taiwan attack and including India in NATO Plus, an organization that currently allows South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel to closely coordinate with the alliance
Gallagher and seven other lawmakers on the 24-member China Committee also sit on the Armed Services Committee, putting them in position to advance many of these bipartisan proposals as amendments to the FY24 NDAA. Gallagher chairs the Armed Services Committee’s cyber panel and fellow China Committee member Rep. Ro Khanna of California serves as the top Democrat on that same panel. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., also sit on the China Committee while respectively serving as chair and ranking member on other Armed Services subcommittees.
The Armed Services Committee was initially set to mark up the FY24 authorization bill this month, but Republican leaders postponed it at the last minute amid gridlocked debt ceiling negotiations.
Kim, who sits on both committees, said he voted against the Taiwan recommendations because all but one focused on military deterrence.
“You have to look at that across a comprehensive approach that includes what we can be doing to build a global coalition, what diplomatic and economic tools are at our disposal, and I don’t think that was reflected in that document,” Kim told Defense News.
While Pacific fleet commander Adm. Samuel Papro briefed the China Committee after the Taiwan war games, State Department officials have yet to accept the panel’s invitation to testify.
Jacquelyn Schneider, who leads the wargaming and crisis initiative at the right-leaning Hoover Institution, stressed the difficulty of conducting campaign war games like the committee did with Taiwan, as they don’t account for classified capabilities.
“The biggest difficulty in campaign war games, and where campaign war games did not reveal what happened between Ukraine and Russia, is it’s very difficult to model public will and that really does affect how wars transpire,” Schneider told Defense News.
She noted the outcomes highlighted issues like munitions shortages that the military and defense policy analysts are already aware of. Nonetheless, Schneider called them “an incredibly evocative experience,” adding that “if you want to convince people who have never really thought about this problem that there’s significant difficulties awaiting if you don’t preposition munitions there, then war games are extremely compelling.”
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.