Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin should be a wake-up call for the United States. China and Russia, our country’s most significant strategic adversaries, are looking to enhance their relationship during Russia’s brutal assault of Ukraine. In light of the united stand by these two dictatorships, this is no time for the United States to signal a lack of resolve.
Biden’s Budget Projects Weakness, Not Strength
As our enemies attempt to show solidarity, our defense spending should project strength. Instead, Biden’s recently released budget projects weakness. For the third year in a row, he has requested military spending that does not even keep up with inflation.
On the other hand, China has increased its military investment every year for the past 20 years. This month, the Chinese Communist Party announced a 7.2 percent increase in its military budget – about six times the rate of Biden’s proposal. That increase is probably an understatement of China’s true spending.
In the three decades since we emerged as the world’s sole superpower, the sheer force of our military might has largely discouraged China and Russia from aggression. But China is expanding its military at a faster pace than any army in human history, threatening our ability to prevent war and to be victorious if we are attacked.
Today with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is a real threat China may have similar designs toward its neighbor, Taiwan. If China succeeds, it will control a broad swath of the Pacific Ocean, and the global balance of power will tilt. Our children and grandchildren would not live in an American-led 21st century. Current military investment is not enough to ensure China does not invade Taiwan, and that must change.
The Budget We Need
Fortunately, there is a blueprint available for the force we need. For years, military commanders have said our Navy fleet – which is essential to defend us from China – is too small. In 2017, I authored, and President Trump signed, the SHIPS Act, which made it the policy of the United States to reach a 355-ship fleet. Unfortunately, the administration has ignored this requirement, and our fleet is just 290 ships compared to China’s 340-ship fleet.
As we build our fleet, the budget should set aside funds for the specific types of ships we need most. In the last budget cycle, I was successful in raising the threshold for amphibious ships. According to the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General David Berger, we must build these ships so his Marines can “go global” and protect American interests in the Pacific and beyond. President Biden’s budget would zero out this critical category, shrinking our fleet while China expands its power over the seas.
American Shipbuilders Stand Ready
To build these ships, we need significant infrastructure improvements. The Secretary of the Navy warned recently that just one Chinese shipyard has more building capacity than every American shipyard combined. This alarming fact demands increased investment, something President Biden’s budget fails to promote.
Congress and President Biden should unleash American shipbuilders by improving the shipyards found all over our nation – from Mississippi to Wisconsin and Hawaii to Maine. These companies can help prevent war and create jobs at the same time. This is worth the investment: It will cost a lot to deter China, but it will cost a lot more if we do not.