This is not the behavior of a nation on the brink of war—and potential defeat—against a nuclear-armed rival in the world’s most important region. As Admiral Aquilino put it: “Everything needs to go faster.”
Moving faster in the Indo-Pacific will require more forces, more funds, and more political capital. For instance, the United States can shift submarines, ships, aircraft, and certain ground units to the Indo-Pacific to strengthen our deterrent posture and rapid response capability. Additional resources would also help to accelerate the dispersal and hardening of operating locations; increase weapons production and stockpiling; accelerate the adoption and development of new capabilities that could make a difference in this decade; preserve relevant capacity by delaying submarine, ship, and aircraft retirements; intensify intelligence-gathering on Chinese forces, including any critical and targetable logistics vulnerabilities; and fully fund efforts to arm Taiwan with the weapons it requires to defend itself.
But substantial and sustained defense spending increases appear unlikely for the foreseeable future. Addressing the threat from China will, therefore, necessitate reallocating resources from other parts of the defense budget. This is the essence of prioritization, and it will require the United States to do less and rely on allies and partners more in other theaters. No doubt, this is a difficult choice. But Washington has spent years avoiding hard decisions. As a result, we face a real risk of war and even defeat in this decade. That is a risk we should not accept, but the only way to avoid it—or at least reduce it as much as possible—is to finally do what we should have been doing all along: prioritize deterring China.
Alexander Velez-Green is Senior Advisor to the Vice President for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He previously served as National Security Advisor to Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).