By Carlo Muñoz - 04/18/12 05:06 PM EDT
The Pentagon and intelligence community need to ramp up "unambiguous defense and intelligence capabilities" into the Pacific, according to new legislation introduced Wednesday by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)
The Virginia Republican is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairs the committee's readiness subpanel.
Forbes' legislation falls in line with the White House's new national security strategy, shifting focus from the Middle East to the Pacific. That shift was prompted in no small part by China's growing military strength in the region.
While diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington have been cordial, China's growing aggressiveness in the region is cause for concern, according to Forbes.
Beijing's "continued lack of transparency, its regard for the United States as its principal strategic adversary, and its continued expansion of its military, intelligence, and economic reach fosters uncertainty in its long-term intentions," the Virginia Republican wrote.
Most recently, Beijing sent three warships to a section of the South China Sea, off the northwest coast of the Philippines, to support a Chinese fishing ship being detained by the Philippine navy.
Claiming territorial sovereignty over the coastal waters where the Chinese fishing vessel was detained, Manila has deployed an additional warship to the area.
Aside from overt military action against American allies in the Pacific, Chinese intelligence has increasingly focused its efforts on targets in the U.S., according to Forbes.
China "has developed and expanded one of the most aggressive intelligence apparatus currently operating against the United States," Forbes' bill states.
Most of those intel operations have been focused in the cyber realm, targeting U.S. commercial and government networks.
DOD officials confirmed in March that a cyberattack against U.S. Internet security firm RSA was carried out by China.
RSA, which provides encryption software to the Pentagon and companies like PayPal, had its security software and codes stolen via a Chinese-led cyberattack, according to Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander.
The company has been able to bounce back from the breach, rewriting new encryption software for the Pentagon and its customers in the private sector.
But the incident is further proof that expanding DOD ties with the private sector is key to any future cyber strategy.
To that end, the U.S. must employ "clear and overwhelming counterintelligence capabilities and guidelines" designed to prevent and disrupt those kinds of breaches, Forbes said.
These additional military and intelligence capabilities are "required to ensure the United States . . . can protect and promote the national security of the United States in the face of significant espionage efforts" by Beijing.