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A ‘closer look’ at the Chinese military

Congress and the public could get an avalanche of new information about China's military and strategic capabilities under a provision in the defense bill the House Armed Services Committee referred to the full House this week. Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, the Republican chair of the HASC's readiness committee, added a requirement for several new studies and reports on China, because he argues Americans need to begin watching China as closely as the Chinese watch the U.S.:

"For decades, the Chinese government and military have meticulously studied the manner in which the United States plans, strategizes, and thinks," Forbes said in an announcement. "Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to meet that same threshold of strategic analysis when it comes to the People’s Republic of China. However, this legislation makes progress in transforming Congress’ approach to the growing military threat of China in the Western Pacific by calling for closer, more consistent scrutiny of China’s rapid military growth by the Department of Defense."

From Forbes' announcement, here's some of what his amendment would require:

  • Strengthening the annual military power report on China. An amendment introduced by Forbes and adopted by the full Committee expands the requirement of the annual military power report on China to include an assessment on the nature of China’s cyber activities directed against the Department of Defense and related damage as well as China’s efforts, including technological transfer and espionage, to access DoD information.  The amendment also reestablishes the name of the report as the “Annual Report on Military Power of the People's Republic of China.” [Note: It was changed in the FY10 defense authorization bill to “Annual Report to Congress on Military Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China," says Forbes spokesman Joe Hack.]
  • Requiring the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to identify Pacific Command’s most critical needs. The bill requires the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to submit to Congress, as part of the Chairman’s assessment of risks under the National Military Strategy, an assessment of the critical deficiencies and strengths in force capabilities (including manpower, logistics, intelligence, and mobility support) identified during the preparation and review of contingency plans of each geographic combatant commander and assess the impact on security objectives and strategic plans. The intent of the provision is to encourage a holistic approach in evaluating our global force structure and resources in light of China’s rapid military modernization and to ensure Congress is aware of the most critical needs of our combatant commanders in executing their mission.
  • Evaluating the United States’ industrial base to identify potential gaps that might affect military readiness. DoD relies on thousands of suppliers to ensure that it has the weapons, supporting equipment, and raw materials it needs to support current and future conflicts against conventional opponents. However, increasing globalization in the defense industry presents uncertainty in the U.S. forces’ ability to maintain a reliable and sufficient supplier base in the event of conflicts. The Committee notes that studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have found that DoD lacks a framework and consistent approach for managing supplier base concerns such as counterfeit parts in the supply chain, and reliance on rare earth materials from the People’s Republic of China in military equipment and systems. As a result, the bill would require a specific assessment of the vulnerabilities posed to defense systems.
  • Reviewing and reporting on Iran’s and China’s conventional and anti-access capabilities. The bill would require the Secretary of Defense to submit to relevant congressional committees, a classified study, undertaken by an independent entity outside of DoD, assessing the gaps between conventional and anti-access capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China and the U.S. forces’ ability to overcome such capabilities.
  • Assessing national security implications of U.S. federal debt owned by China. The legislation requires the Director of the Congressional Budget Office to determine and make publicly available the amount of accrued interest on the U.S. Federal debt paid to the People’s Republic of China during the five years preceding enactment.  Additionally, this section requires the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to carry out an assessment of the impacts to U.S. national security posed by Chinese held U.S. debt.
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