The White House submitted a $105 billion supplemental spending package to Congress on Friday. The proposal seeks to help three beleaguered democracies — Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan — confronting adversaries that seek to destroy or subsume them. Understandably, given the hot wars they are in, Ukraine and Israel will receive most of the attention. But deterring or at least delaying aggression in the Taiwan Strait depends largely on whether Washington devotes sufficient funds to that goal and allocates the investments wisely. By that standard, the administration’s proposal related to Taiwan falls short, and Congress should act to correct the shortcomings.
When it comes to the Indo-Pacific region, the administration is requesting $7.4 billion in roughly three areas: $3.4 billion for improving the submarine-industrial base, $2 billion in Foreign Military Financing program funds for allies and partners in the region, and $2 billion for Treasury Department actions to compete with Chinese coercive financing efforts worldwide.
While both the submarine-industrial base and Treasury Department proposals are laudable, neither will substantially strengthen deterrence in the Indo-Pacific in the next five years. This leaves only the $2 billion in FMF funding, and that is not nearly enough.
In addition to the supplemental’s $2 billion FMF investment in the Indo-Pacific, Congress should add $5 billion in programs that focus on efforts to directly improve Taiwan’s defensive capabilities and U.S. warfighting capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.
For context, Taiwan spends about 2.4% of its gross domestic product on defense — a significant amount for a democracy — and Taipei is working each year to increase that level of spending. To put Taiwan’s defense spending in perspective, however, the People’s Republic of China’s economy is roughly 20 times larger than Taiwan’s. Beijing’s official military budget is about 12 times larger than Taiwan’s, according to the Pentagon, and the real numbers may be even worse.
As a first step, Congress should appropriate $2 billion in replenishment funding for fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024 to backfill the presidential drawdown authority for Taiwan established in last year’s Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act. This would allow the Department of Defense to rapidly deliver U.S. military equipment to Taiwan directly from U.S stocks and then buy back components for the U.S. military with this funding.
This approach can be used to immediately deliver to Taiwan much-needed gear such as air defense systems, command-and-control systems, individual soldier equipment (needed to improve Taiwan’s reserve ground capabilities), land- and sea-based mines, and Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicles. It is worth noting that this March, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin publicly stated his support for replenishment funds to backfill U.S. weapons sent to Taiwan under the presidential drawdown authority.
Taiwan should receive $1.5 billion of the FMF funding already earmarked for the Indo-Pacific in the supplemental. FMF is a program that resources a partner’s purchase of weapons from American industry. These weapon systems will take longer to get to Taiwan, but the goal should be to strengthen military preparedness by the 2027 or 2028 time frame. This can and should include more Harpoon systems, mine-laying systems, air defense weapons, anti-armor systems, drone systems, and more multiple launch rocket systems and their missiles.
Most of the remaining FMF funds should be directed to the Philippines — an ally that is struggling to keep the Chinese at bay in the South China Sea. The Marcos administration has taken the right steps to rebuild the U.S.-Philippines alliance, and unless the United States quickly provides the right capabilities to Manila, the situation in the South China Sea will deteriorate further.
Manila could use the FMF funds to purchase unmanned aircraft systems to gain better visibility of what the Chinese are doing in their waters and improve their response efforts to illegal Chinese incursions.
In addition to the funding for Taiwan and other partners, Congress should devote $3 billion specifically to fund efforts to improve U.S. combat capability in the Western Pacific. Of that amount, $2 billion should address Indo-Pacific Command’s top warfighting and unfunded requirements that were not included in the FY23 and FY24 budgets. This includes increased funding for the joint training team in Taiwan; research and development to defend against hypersonic weapons; the integrated undersea surveillance system; expedited delivery of the E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft; and integration of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile into the B-52 bomber. This can also provide funding to develop and procure innovative new weapon systems, such as the Powered Joint Direct Attack Munition — a long-range, low-cost anti-ship munition launchable from multiple aircraft — and low-cost, longer-range littoral drones to strike Chinese maritime vessels.
The final $1 billion should be used to improve the U.S. defense-industrial base’s production capacity for vital munitions. That means not just ensuring maximum current production but increasing that production capacity as quickly as possible with targeted investments. In addition to ongoing efforts related to the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile and the Standard Missile-6, Congress should prioritize the Harpoon, Joint Strike Missile, Naval Strike Missile, air-to-air missiles, Patriot weaponry, and Mark 48 and Mark 54 torpedo production lines.
Thankfully we are not currently witnessing a major military conflict in the Indo-Pacific involving China. For that reason, most of the supplemental funding should indeed focus on Ukraine and Israel because of the current wars they confront. But the administration’s request for the Indo-Pacific did very little to address the challenges China presents in this decade, and it needs to be augmented by Congress.
If we don’t invest wisely now in the Indo-Pacific, deterrence will fail in the Taiwan Strait, and the consequences would be dire.
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. He previously served as policy director on the Senate Armed Services Committee under Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and as director of operations (J3) at U.S. Pacific Command. Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at FDD. He previously served as a national security adviser to members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and was an officer in the U.S. Army and an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy.