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Key Republican proposes $6B to counter China in Indo-Pacific

Key Republican proposes $6B to counter China in Indo-Pacific
© Greg Nash

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is proposing a new fund focused on countering China in the Indo-Pacific region, starting with $6 billion next year.

Dubbed the Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the draft legislation unveiled Thursday by Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryChamber of Commerce endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress Overnight Defense: Senate passes stopgap spending bill hours before shutdown deadline | Brief military mentions in chaotic first Trump, Biden debate | Lawmakers grills Pentagon officials over Germany drawdown Lawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown MORE (R-Texas) is modeled off the European Deterrence Initiative created in 2014 to counter Russia.

“Senior officials from both parties, military commanders, and international security experts have told us for years that the Indo-Pacific must be this country’s priority theater,” Thornberry said in a statement. “They are absolutely correct, and it is time to put our money where our mouth is.”

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A counter-China fund appears likely to make it into the annual defense policy bill in some form. A spokeswoman for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy Watchdog to audit Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds on defense contractors MORE (D-Wash.) said Thursday he has already been looking at including such a program in the next National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Mr. Smith is glad that Mr. Thornberry supports the creation of an Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative,” committee Democratic spokeswoman Monica Matoush said in statement. “It is a policy priority that the chairman has been working on since last fall with the intention of including a related provision in the FY21 NDAA.”

She added that the fund would be “intended to assure our partners and allies of the United States’ enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific and enhance Congress’ ability to conduct oversight on U.S. military activities and resources.”

It would also “responsibly fund activities that are fully supported by DoD, avoid budgetary gimmicks, and require DoD to provide strategic future years planning to ensure large resource investments are holistically aligned towards meeting our objectives,” she said.

As the committee continues crafting the NDAA, it will “gladly consider similar bipartisan policy suggestions that will effectively support our national security,” the spokeswoman added.

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The $6 billion in Thornberry’s legislation would cover missile defense, intelligence activities, the prepositioning of equipment, troop rotations, military construction, work with allies and partners, and training exercises.

“These are not all new programs, but by pulling them together under one policy we will be better able to judge our own commitment here at home, demonstrate our resolve to our allies and partners, and deter China,” Thornberry said in his statement.

He acknowledged all $6 billion he is proposing may not be approved this year but said “it is important that we make a start, and then use this legislation to measure our progress going forward.”

On missile defense, Thornberry’s bill would authorize $77 million for a permanent and persistent land-based integrated air and missile defense system on Guam, $162 million for a homeland defense radar in Hawaii and $312.8 million for the Missile Defense Agency to use for the Indo-Pacific region.

The bill would also authorize $378.5 million on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as $6.3 million for Special Operations Command Indo-Pacific and $106 million for a rotational presence of Marines in the region.

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The proposal also includes $150 million for the Air Force and $497 million for the Navy to preposition equipment, and $819 million for the Pentagon to buy and preposition munitions in the region.

It would also provide $2.1 billion for various military construction purposes, and $1 billion for training and exercises.

On allies and partner, the proposal includes $50 million to modernize communications, $2 million for building capacity on counterterrorism in the region, $6 million for the National Guard State Partnership Program, $290.6 million for security cooperation programs and $5 million to help humanitarian and disaster relief missions.