First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak).
However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military's chief abilities to project power or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly cancelling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,
“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”
Indeed, only time will tell.
This first appeared in Feb. 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest.