Are China’s missiles a bigger threat or trillions in debt on a bloated military ?

The Pentagon’s new budget request asks that the Navy receive a large increase: $161 billion for the 2016 fiscal year, versus $149 billion in the current fiscal year. Last month, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the House Appropriations Committee that the Navy must get bigger — increasing to a total of at least 300 ships, versus the current 275.

Gregg Easterbrook makes the case in the NY Times that no naval expansion is needed. The Navy has 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers — 10 more than the rest of the world.

The Boston Herald calls the 2011 “sequestration” limits a starvation diet military budget of $523 billion. President Obama’s proposed budget would make the figure $561 billion.

Reihan Salam of the National Review says the Easterbrook neglects the rise of China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities. China does not need to match the U.S. Navy ship for ship. Rather, they just need to limit the U.S. Navy’s freedom of action in maritime Asia. Easterbrook addresses this concern glancingly when he discounts the threat of China’s anti-ship missiles. What he fails to appreciate is that China’s anti-ship missiles don’t have to clear a high bar to greatly undermine America’s ability to project power in the Western Pacific.

Jerry Hendrix of the Center for a New American Security explains, the Chinese approach is to launch a slew of (relatively) low-cost missiles to overwhelm U.S. defenses:

Using a maneuverable re-entry vehicle (MaRV) placed on a CSS-5 missile, China’s Second Artillery Division states that its doctrine will be to saturate a target with multiple warheads and multiple axis attacks, overwhelming the target’s ability to defend itself. MaRV warhead itself would use a high explosive, or a radio frequency or cluster warhead that at a minimum could achieve a mission kill against the target ship. While the United States does not know the cost of this weapons system, some analysts have estimated its procurement costs at $5 million to $11 million. Assuming the conservative, high-end estimate of $11 million per missile gives an exchange ratio of $11 million to $13.5 billion, which means that China could build 1,227 DF-21Ds for every carrier the United States builds going forward. U.S. defenses would have to destroy every missile fired, a tough problem given the magazines of U.S. cruisers and destroyers, while China would need only one of its weapons to survive to e!ect a mission kill. Although U.S. Navy and Air Force leaders have coordinated their efforts to develop the means to operate in an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environment by disrupting opposing operations, the risk of a carrier suffering a mission kill that takes it off the battle line without actually sinking it remains high.

It should be noted that current estimates are that China only has 100-200 DF-21 missiles

US Navy plan is to have counter missiles and offensive missiles on every ship in a plan called distributed lethality

The US Navy plans to distribute lethality throughout the Fleet, increasing combat power on each ship while ensuring those ships are more capable of operating in dispersed and network-denied environments.

So militarily will not be just hundreds and thousands of Chinese missiles versus US aircraft carriers. It will be loads and loads of US missiles and counter missiles in a missile race.

Most enemy long-range anti-ship cruise missile (ASCMs) would likely be fired at 100-150 nm (nautical miles) or less. There are several potential missiles available to U.S. forces that could provide more than 150 nm range, such as the Norwegian Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM).

Cruisers and destroyers must adopt an air defense approach that frees up space for offensive missiles in Vertical launch System (VLS) magazines. This approach needs to enable more engagements to be shifted to smaller interceptors and non-kinetic systems such as electronic warfare.

The Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) is a shipborne missile canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability against hostile threats. The Vertical Launch System (VLS) concept was derived from work on the Aegis Combat System.

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Military Budgets and Economic Strength

The US can probably figure out how to neutralize China’s missiles and somewhat affordably counter them with US missiles, lasers and railguns.

Still does the US need to load up and expend budget on a pissing match with China ? Will an actual war with China never happen ?

Is fiscal responsibility and reduced deficits more important ?

hina announced an official 2015 military budget of $145 billion, which is a 10.1% increase from 2014. The Pentagon and global arms bodies estimate China’s actual military spending may be anywhere from 40 to 50 percent more because the official budget doesn’t include the costs of high-tech weapons imports, research and development, and other programs. A 50% adjusted accounting of China’s defense spending would be about $220 billion in 2015. However, even though China spends three to four times what the UK or Russia are spending annually on defense, China’s military and military systems are in many ways inferior to the military of those countries. However, the higher spending and improvements in research and technology are allowing China to rapidly catch up. China will become a clear number two in actual conventional military capability in the 2020s. Russia and the USA will still have a clear advantage in nuclear capability.

China’s military spending is about 2% of its overall GDP. US official military spending is about 4% of GDP.

China’s official military spending is still less than a third of the U.S. defense budget, a proposed $534 billion for 2015 along with $51 billion for the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The US figures do not include the costs of the Veterans administration or interest from the defense related share of the debt. Including all those defense related items would increase the accounting of US defense spending to over $1.3 trillion in 2015. An all related defense spending level is about 7% of US GDP.

The bigger cost to the US economy is not just whether procurement is bumped by $40 billion but the cost of treatment for tens of thousands of additional veterans for every year of active wars.

Interest on debt and the cost to service veterans will take decades to reduce. Every year of active war is costing over $500 billion.

7% of GDP for decades will not break the US economy, but would the US economy be stronger in the long run if military costs were at 3-4% of GDP for decades ? What could the USA use $30 trillion for from now to 2050 instead of the military, wars and post-war costs ?


InflationAdjustedDefenseSpending” by Johnpseudo – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

SOURCES – US Navy, Breaking Defense, Wikipedia, NY Times, Boston Herald, National Review, Information dissemination

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