Top Security Think Tank: Act Soon or China Will Match U.S. Military Power in 15-20 Years

Apr 5, 2011
Defense Drumbeat
U.S. and Western Defense Budgets Are Shrinking Just As Threats Are Rising and Competitors’ Budgets Increase

Washington, D.C. —In its 2011 edition of The Military Balance, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), one of the top security think tanks in the world, drew ominous conclusions about global developments in defense policy and armed forces. 

Speaking to Reuters, IISS head Dr. John Chipman warned, “The United States has always said it would never let another power get to parity so in the next few years it is going to have to make some very significant decisions on what it does.”

In a statement on the release of the report, IISS highlighted the contrast between defense cuts in the West and booming military spending and arms acquisitions in Asia and the Middle East concluding “there is persuasive evidence that a global redistribution of military power is under way.” The statement went on to state that “it is already clear that as a result of shifts in the global distribution of economic power and consequently the resources available for military spending, the United States and other Western powers are losing their monopoly in key areas of defense technology, including stealth aircraft, unmanned systems, and cyber warfare.”

Among the most concerning elements of the report was the stark contrast between U.S. defense cuts and the rapidly expanding military power of China. In the last several years, China has embarked upon relentless upgrades to all of branches of its military. IISS pointed to the strategic significance of China’s upgraded submarine fleet, more effective anti-ship missiles, and significantly strengthened air capabilities. This modernization continues to overshadow other Asian states’ military efforts and create unease among American allies in the region. China’s growing military power is all the more worrisome given its greater assertiveness in relation to maritime claims in the South China Sea and lack of restraint in the East China Sea where it has conflicting claims with Japan.

The release of this report underscores the concerns of Chairman McKeon and other House Republicans as pressure mounts to cut defense in the most difficult and complex security environment the United States has ever faced. In his recent op-ed, Chairman McKeon wrote, “As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I will do everything in my power to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively in providing for the common defense. But I will not support slashing defense spending with our brave men and women still in harm’s way in Afghanistan and as threats to our security mount around the world.”

The IISS report highlights these mounting threats. The constitutional mandate to provide for the common defense is no less important in a difficult budgetary environment. If the United States is to achieve its strategic objectives, difficult decisions must be made now to assure we have the necessary capabilities to do so in the future. 

The House Armed Services Committee will raise this issue and others at a public hearing Wednesday, April 6, on United States Pacific Command and United States Forces Korea.

112th Congress