The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) included plans to stand up a new Pacific Deterrence Initiatives worth nearly $6 billion in its fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill, demonstrating the committee’s intent to boost deterrence against China in the Indo-Pacific (INDOPACOM) region.
The committee’s markup of the FY ’21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2021 for the new fund and over $5 billion for FY ’22.
The Pacific Deterrence Initiative will send “a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is deeply committed to defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific,” the bill’s summary said. “PDI will enhance budgetary transparency and oversight, focus resources on key military capability gaps, reassure U.S. allies and partners, and bolster the credibility of American deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.”
Under the new initiative, SASC members call for the joint force in the Indo-Pacific region to change the design and posture there to smaller and more resilient basing, enhance the capabilities of expeditionary ports and airfields, and improve logistics and maintenance capabilities to better facilitate multi-domain operations.
The committee’s bill, which was approved by a vote of 25-2, includes a provision for the Air Force to establish an operating base for F-35A Joint Strike Fighters in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility, and to allocate resources that would protect air bases vulnerable to cruise missile or potentially hypersonic missile attacks from China.
Senior officials in the Defense Department and services have called China the U.S. military’s top adversary. Leaders of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committee have recently shared their desire for a Pacific deterrence fund to be established, similar to that of the European Deterrence Initiative. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), HASC’s ranking member, has called for $6 billion to be spent all in FY ’21.