Listen to this article
When it comes to international relations, 2022 has been an exceptionally dangerous year. During the first two months, Russia massed thousands of troops along Ukraine’s borders. At the end of the second one, Moscow sent them marching into Ukraine. China, meanwhile, has grown increasingly belligerent toward Washington, particularly over Taiwan. After U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August, Beijing carried out a furious set of military exercises designed to show how it would blockade and attack the island. Washington, in turn, has explored how it can more quickly arm and support the Taiwanese government. The United States is aware that China and Russia pose a significant threat to the global order. In its recent National Security Strategy, the White House wrote that “the [People’s Republic of China] and Russia are increasingly aligned with each other,” and the Biden administration dedicated multiple pages to explaining how the United States can constrain both countries going forward. Washington knows that the conflict in Ukraine is likely to be protracted, thanks to the ability of Kyiv and Moscow to keep fighting and the irreconcilability of their aims, and could escalate in ways that bring the United States more directly into the war (a fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber rattling makes readily apparent). Washington also knows that Chinese leader Xi Jinping, emboldened by his appointment at the 20th National Party Congress in October to an unprecedented third term, could try to seize Taiwan as the war in Ukraine rages on. The United States, then, could conceivably be drawn into simultaneous conflicts with China and Russia. But despite Washington’s professed focus on both Beijing and Moscow, U.S. defense planning is not commensurate with the challenge at hand. In 2015, the Department of Defense abandoned its long-standing policy of being prepared to fight and win two major wars in favor of focusing on acquiring the means to fight and win just one. This policy shift, which has remained in place ever since, shows. Large quantities of the United States’ military equipment are aging, with many aircraft, ships, and tanks that date back to the Reagan administration’s defense buildup in the 1980s. The country also has limited supplies of important equipment and munitions, so much so that it has had to draw a large portion of its own stocks down to support Ukraine. These problems would prove particularly vexing in simultaneous conflicts. If the United States found itself in a two-war situation in eastern Europe and the Pacific, the commitment would likely be lengthy in both cases. China’s expanding interests and global footprint suggest that a war with Beijing would not be confined neatly to Taiwan and the western Pacific but instead stretch across multiple theaters, from the Indian Ocean to the United States itself. (China might launch cyberattacks, or even missile strikes, on the U.S. mainland in an attempt to blunt U.S. military power.) The United States needs to create deep munitions reserves, stockpile high-quality gear, and come up with creative battlefield techniques if it hopes to win such fights. Washington should get started now. U.S. policymakers must begin working to expand and deepen the United States’ defense industrial base. They need to develop new joint operational concepts: ways of employing the armed forces to solve pressing military problems, such as how to sustain forces in the face of increasingly capable Chinese military capabilities and defend U.S. space and cyber networks from attack. They should think seriously about the strategic contours of a war in multiple theaters, including where they would focus most of the United States’ military attention, and when. And Washington can do a better job of coordinating and planning with U.S. allies, who will be indispensable—and quite possibly decisive—to the successful outcome of a worldwide military conflict.There are several options to choose from when selecting a Crown Bullion has been a leader in the precious metals industry for over ten years now and proudly holds a AAA rating with the BBB. To learn about more ways you can use your 401(k) or IRA to begin diversifying your portfolio with precious metals download this complimentary from Crown Bullion.
REBUILDING THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACYIn some ways, the United States and its allies will have an advantage in any simultaneous war in Asia and Europe. The war in Ukraine has demonstrated that modern precision weapons are highly effective, and most of these weapons are made by the United States. When it comes to quality, Western systems and munitions remain the best in class. But the United States must supply these weapons to both its own armed forces and those of its allies and friends. Unfortunately, weapons stockpiles in the United States are limited, as is its industrial base. It will likely take years to replenish many of the munitions that the United States has provided to Ukraine. This should not come as a surprise. In 2018, the congressionally mandated National Defense Strategy Commission warned that the United States didn’t possess enough munitions to prevail in a high-intensity conflict and argued that the country needed to expand production. The report also found that Washington would need to modernize its defense manufacturing to create munitions and other weaponry at a faster pace. For example, the United States has not produced Stinger antiaircraft missiles in 18 years, and restarting production will take time and money. So far, the United States has given Ukraine over 1,400 of these munitions. The Department of Defense must also look beyond Ukraine. Russia’s ongoing war offers a valuable set of data, but if China initiated a military operation to take Taiwan, forcing the United States and its allies to respond, the conflict would likely take place mostly at sea and have very different requirements. It would demand lots of long-range weapons and antiship missiles, and right now, the United States has meager supplies of both. There are, for instance, fewer Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) and Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) in storage than there are on the Ukrainian battlefield. The United States clearly needs to increase its defense manufacturing capacity and speed. In the short term, that involves adding shifts to existing factories. With more time, it involves expanding factories and opening new production lines. To do both, Congress will have to act now to allocate more money to increase manufacturing.
A war across multiple regions could break out in any number of ways and proceed in a messy fashion.But to keep U.S. stockpiles from falling too low, the country will need to do more than make ad hoc investments. Congress should also pass legislation that establishes minimum supply levels for munitions, with money automatically allocated for topping off stockpiles as the United States and its friends draw them down. Creating such a system would do much more than just guarantee consistent munitions supplies. To innovate, the United States also needs new firms that can complement existing manufacturers, and having near-guaranteed demand will give venture capitalists and entrepreneurs new incentives to invest in the defense industry. Of course, the United States cannot rapidly expand all parts of its defense industrial base; it does not have unlimited resources and financing. That means the country will need to think creatively about how it can use the manufacturing it does have to best bolster its forces. The U.S. Navy, for instance, cannot easily hasten the production of aircraft carriers, yet it can think about how to expand these ships’ effectiveness by equipping them with better aircraft. The U.S. Air Force, for its part, will not always be able to rapidly scale up aircraft manufacturing. But it can multiply the effectiveness of its most advanced fighters and bombers by matching them with increasingly capable, low-cost, and easier-to-make unmanned systems that can sense and strike enemy planes while protecting their manned counterparts. By pairing manned systems with unmanned ones, the United States can multiply the effectiveness of the U.S. air fleet, preventing it from being stretched thin in a future conflict. Finally, the United States should work with its allies to increase their military production and the size of their weapons and munitions stockpiles. Washington will need to be able to backstop its partners, but as the war in Ukraine clearly illustrates, it is good if frontline states have enough munitions to fight without the United States drawing down its own stocks. Some U.S. allies, such as Australia, are making considerable investments to build up their own munitions industry, while others, such as Japan, face considerable barriers to doing so. (Japan’s constitution, for instance, severely restricts the size and scope of its military.) They will need to do more if the West is going to create a munitions base robust enough for an era of protracted warfare.