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To maintain regional stability, Congress needs to protect certain aspects of DOD funding. First, Congress should ensure funding for U.S. military operations and training in the region to maintain a constant U.S. military presence. Second, Congress should ensure funding for specific capabilities necessary to operate in the Asia-Pacific threat environment, particularly naval capabilities. Third, Congress should ensure funding for developing and maintaining the U.S. military’s intellectual capital to understand the region.
Some argue that the DOD needs to do its part to help get the U.S. fiscal situation in order, but this argument lacks depth. Yes, the DOD should receive its share of budget cuts, but decisions about what to cut should be made based on priorities. At a time when the Asia Pacific is of growing importance to the United States, Congress should not be decreasing the military’s ability to effectively operate in the region.
Others argue that China is not an enemy, and therefore we should not try to contain it. This argument is correct, but only to a point. While the U.S. and China are not enemies, the U.S. military does help to ensure that China’s increasing military capabilities do not disrupt the overall stability of the Asia Pacific.
Reducing the overall U.S. defense budget is a worthy goal, but it must be done wisely. If Congress does not guarantee the resources needed for the military to effectively operate in the Asia Pacific, the U.S. military may no longer be the stabilizing force in the region that it has been for so long. But not to worry, the Chinese military is waiting to fill the vacuum.
Daniel M. Hartnett is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council, trumanproject.org, and a research scientist in the China Studies Division at CNA. The views here are his own.