Will the "fiscal cliff" impact the rebalance to Asia? Are aircraft carriers obsolete? Can the U.S. build strong partnerships in the Indo-Pacific?
The Diplomat's Editor Harry Kazianis recently spoke with Congressman J. Randy Forbes concerning the "fiscal cliff", America's rebalance to Asia, AirSea Battle, U.S. – China Relations, and building partnerships throughout the "Indo-Pacific."
1. President Obama on his first foreign trip after winning a second term traveled to Southeast Asia. This was at a time when the Middle East seemed ready to explode with violence between Israel and Hamas stealing the headlines in some respects. While America is seemingly "pivoting" or "rebalancing" its focus towards Asia, large cuts may soon hit the defense budget as we approach the "fiscal cliff." What impact would such massive across the board cuts have on the defense aspect of the "pivot." How would such cuts impact initiatives such as AirSea Battle?
Across-the-board cuts in the form of defense sequestration would clearly have a debilitating effect on the defense resourcing side of the Asia “rebalance.” No one denies this. Over the past two years we have already taken $800 billion in defense cuts. With questions already lingering about our ability to resource this effort, our national security strategy simply cannot be sustained under any further reductions.
What I fear most in terms of the Asia rebalance and supporting the AirSea Battle office’s initiatives are further reductions in some of the defense capabilities I consider to be critical. First, we must act to preserve our dominance in the undersea domain by prioritizing platforms like the Virginia-class submarine and its associated Virginia Payload Module (VPM), as well as unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). Additionally, we must sustain other areas where we possess competitive advantage; specifically, electronic warfare capabilities including the EA-18G Growler and next-generation jammer; and long-range strike platforms like the Air Force Long-Range Bomber (LRS-B) and Navy Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).
We also need to support the proper balance between hardening, dispersing, and defending our forward-deployed bases and facilities. Hardening facilities is an expensive endeavor, but doing so will greatly enhance the task of ensuring crisis stability and help to deter potential conflict.
Finally, our strategy demands a large navy fleet. Admiral James D. Watkins, the Chief of Naval Operations during the mid 1980s, used the term “violent peace” to describe the frantic pace of naval forces during peacetime. Today’s peacetime Navy faces its own violent pace of operations, pushing operational and personnel tempo to the limit. Providing tailored and sustained American seapower in the Indo-Pacific requires a fleet of roughly 346 ships, including 55 nuclear-powered attack submarines.
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