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Pentagon to Weigh Sending Extra Subs, Bombers to Asia-Pacific

U.S. military analysts intend to study the possibility of deploying more submarines and bomber planes in the Asia-Pacific in accordance with the Pentagon's strategic shift toward the region, Reuters reported on Wednesday (see GSN, July 31).

Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans Robert Scher told a House of Representatives subpanel that "we will take another look" at fielding a greater military force on Guam in light of an call to do so in a recent independent assessment of the U.S. defense posture in the Asia-Pacific.

Guam, a U.S. territory, presently hosts a rotating squadron of B-52 bombers and a fleet of three submersible attack vessels.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in its assessment last week advised sending a minimum of one more submarine to Guam in order to counter China's growing "anti-access, area-denial" military capabilities. Alternatively, the military could permanently base a squadron of 12 B-52s on Guam.

The chief regional geopolitical challenge that Washington and allied governments are confronted with "is how China's growing power and influence will impact order and stability in the years ahead," according to the analysis by the nonpartisan think-tank.

The report recommended maintaining current U.S. military alliances in the region so as to "dissuade Chinese coercion or North Koran aggression."

The CSIS review's conclusion that "there are opportunities to move forward with Guam and send an important signal to the region," is accepted and supported by the Pentagon, Scher and acting Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary David Helvey said in joint remarks submitted to the House Armed Services subpanel on readiness.

Scher informed Reuters that the fielding of more submarines or bomber aircraft on Guam are not in any present U.S. military preparations but will be looked at following the "good work" from the CSIS review" (Jim Wolf, Reuters, Aug. 1).

The head of the Pentagon's Net Assessment Office, Andrew Marshall, has devised a U.S. military concept known as "AirSea Battle" that in the event of a conflict with China would send cloaked U.S. bomber planes and attack submarines to destroy the Asian power's early warning radar systems and highly accurate missiles, which are based far from the coastline, the Washington Post reported.

Some Asia experts are concerned that traditional military attacks on Chinese radar and missiles could lead to a nuclear exchange by the two powers.

During a 2011 defense forum, Chinese Col. Gaoyue Fan warned "if the U.S. military develops AirSea Battle to deal with the (People's Liberation Army), the PLA will be forced to develop anti-AirSea Battle."

Opponents of Marshall argue his defense strategies overstate the Chinese danger in order to support a larger U.S. military budget.

"The old joke about the Office of Net Assessment is that it should be called the Office of Threat Inflation. They go around exploring the worst cases," MIT Security Studies Program head Barry Posen said in an interview with the Post. "They convince others to act as if the worst cases are inevitable."

An unidentified high-ranking Defense Department official in 2011 told journalists the AirSea Battle strategy was only aimed at destroying a country's arsenal of highly accurate missiles. "It's not about a specific actor. It is not about a specific regime."

However, high-ranking Defense officials have admitted the attack concept's aim is to support the U.S. military in surviving a first wave Chinese attack by responding with attacks on anti-access, area-denial assets meant to prevent U.S. naval forces from approaching China's sea borders.

U.S. defense officials note the enormous recent growth in the PLA budget, which now tops out annually at $180 billion -- roughly 33 percent of yearly U.S. defense outlays.

"We want to put enough uncertainty in the minds of Chinese military planners that they would not want to take us on," an anonymous Navy official said. "AirSea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition" (Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, Aug. 1).

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