Armed Services chairman unveils $2.1B Asia-Pacific security bill

Armed Services chairman unveils $2.1B Asia-Pacific security bill
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a bill to provide $2.1 billion toward security in the Asia-Pacific region, he announced Friday.

“No one needs reminding of the escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement. “It is essential that the United States reassure our allies and friends that we are committed to stability and security in that region now and in the future.

“One of the best ways to do that is to increase our military presence and enhance our readiness there. To do that, we need to invest in a broad range of defense capabilities and this legislation does just that.”

Thornberry intends to fold the bill into the upcoming annual defense policy bill, according to the news release.

The proposal comes as North Korea continues to defy the international community and make progress on its nuclear and missile programs, ratcheting up tensions in the region.

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North Korea most recently tested a missile last weekend. That followed a missile test the weekend prior that is said to have marked considerable progress on its quest for a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Thornberry’s proposal is similar to one from his Senate counterpart, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Romney: Trump 'has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character' MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), calling for a $7.5 billion Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative fund, making it likely that the final defense policy bill will see some boost to funding for the military in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thornberry’s bill would authorize $1 billion to “address shortfalls in critical munition inventories” and “improve critical munition capabilities.” The bill lists 19 specific munitions including advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, precision-guided anti-ship missiles and Tomahawk land attack missiles, but it adds that “any other weapon system determined appropriate by the secretary of Defense” would be authorized.

The bill would also authorize $1 billion for interceptors for the terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) system or lower-tier air and missile defense interceptors, such as for the Patriot system. A THAAD was recently deployed to South Korea.

Another $15 million would be authorized for missile defense exercises with Japan, South Korea and Australia. And $100 million would be authorized to enhance joint training and exercises in the region.

The bill would also require multiple plans and reports. The Pentagon would have to provide a report on challenges and objectives in the region and the resources needed to meet them, as well as a review of U.S. force posture in the region and an assessment of the Air Force’s bomber capabilities when deployed.

The Pentagon would also have to submit plans to maintain a forward-stationed combat aviation brigade in South Korea to incorporate cyber planning with joint planning exercises in the region and to enhance image sharing with allies in the region.

The bill also addresses China’s behavior in the South China Sea, requiring the Pentagon to assess policy on freedom of navigation operations in the sea.

Finally, the bill would affirm the sense of Congress supporting the U.S.-South Korea-Japan alliance, the U.S.-Australia alliance, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Taiwan’s ability to provide for its own self-defense.