Emerging defense bill mandates Pentagon study on war with China in 2030
Congress is ordering the Pentagon to conduct a major study of a U.S. war with China around 2030 under the draft of a compromise defense authorization bill approved by House and Senate conferees this week.
The proposed National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2024 also orders the Pentagon to study the economic impact of a People’s Liberation Army invasion of Taiwan, an action President Biden has said would set in motion a U.S. military response.
The war study provision calls on the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, the internal think tank that gauges U.S. and adversary military power, to conduct a year-long investigation of a potential U.S.-China conflict and present it to Congress by Dec. 1, 2024.
The net assessment office has come under fire in the past for producing what critics say are frivolous and irrelevant studies without producing primary reports on U.S. and adversary strengths and weaknesses. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment on the ONA war study requirement.
The 3,093-page conference report contains the two study requirements along with more than a dozen China provisions. The restrictions represent a bipartisan consensus regarding the growing military threat from China.
Both houses of Congress will next debate the legislation, which must be signed by Mr. Biden.
In a joint statement on the legislation, Reps. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican, and Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat and Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the country “faces unprecedented threats from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. It is vital that we act now to protect our national security.
The war study comes amid mounting tensions between the United States and China on issues such as economics, Taiwan and control of the South China Sea. The study of a war in 2030 will explore potential attacks by China on the United States, and U.S. strikes on China, including cyberattacks and the disruption of critical infrastructure like electrical grids.
Also included will be an estimate of U.S. and Chinese military capabilities and the impact on U.S. alliances in the region.
The Office of Net Assessment also is tasked with conducting a review of previous attempts in history to forecast war costs and consequences.
Another section of the defense bill directs Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to produce a comprehensive study of the economic impact of a PLA invasion on Taiwan or other aggressive or coercive actions toward the democratic-ruled island within 60 days of the enactment of the defense bill.
The unclassified Taiwan study will also report on the economic impact of military action on the world and on the United States. Taiwan is a leading producer of microchips, and any attack is expected to severely disrupt global supplies of the electronic components.
Another area of study will focus on developing policies for sanctions and supply chain curbs that might deter China prior to a war. A separate study outlined in the House version of the bill on a U.S. and allied blockade of China to prevent oil from reaching the country was rejected in the final bill.
The Taiwan report also will include other coercive action China could take, such as the seizure of outlying Taiwanese islands, the impact of a blockade on the United States and what would be needed to address the problems, including how the Pentagon would work with other U.S. agencies impacted by a blockade.
Yet another China-related section of the bill bans all Pentagon funding for the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance or the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese facility suspected of being linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The defense legislation also includes a provision requiring the Pentagon to conduct an audit of funds diverted to Chinese research laboratories in Wuhan, China, or under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The study will seek to identify if U.S. defense money was used for research or experiments to enhance coronaviruses or other deadly viruses.
Another provision requires the State Department intelligence office to assess reciprocity between the United States and China on issues related to security, diplomacy, the economy, technology, commercial, academic and cultural ties. The study must describe how the current lack of reciprocity between the United States and China provide advantages to Beijing.
China‘s influence operations targeting Pacific island nations also must be reported to Congress under the defense legislation. Another report to be required is the PLA’s relations with Cambodia including upgrading a naval base and airport.
Chinese expansion into South America and Africa also must be studied on the bill provisions. The legislation also will end the designation of China as a “developing nation.”