Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Adm. Paparo had first asked to brief the China Committee and incorrectly stated the number of House lawmakers on the 24-member committee. In fact, it was lawmakers on the committee who first asked Paparo to brief.
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s top officer for the Pacific region plans to appear before the House China Committee in a closed session Thursday about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, sources told Defense News.
Adm. Samuel Paparo, the commander of the Navy’s Pacific fleet will brief bipartisan, 24-member committee, which the House established in January in part as a way to help Taiwan defend itself from a potential attack. Paparo is expected to tell lawmakers about what’s needed to defend Taiwan, including resource requirements and shortages, capability shortfalls, modernization efforts as well as logistics and coordination with allies and partners, the committee’s staff said.
“Even though we’ve gotten this massive wake-up call in Ukraine, we haven’t yet done what is necessary to start replenishing new stockpiles and building them at a rapid rate to surge and pre-position them to the [Pacific] theater,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the chairman of the committee, told Defense News in a Wednesday statement. “Given the geography, we can only fight with what we have there.”
Paparo’s appearance before the committee had not been previously reported.
For months, the China Committee has been preparing a bipartisan series of policy recommendations for possible inclusion in the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The House Armed Services Committee was set to begin work on the defense policy bill this week, but Republican leaders postponed it at the last minute amid a partisan debate over raising the debt ceiling and discretionary spending levels.
The proposals are expected to include specific measures aimed at deterring China from invading or blockading Taiwan. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to retake the island by force if necessary.
In April, the China Committee also held a tabletop war game over Taiwan and Gallagher told Defense News in a subsequent interview that the war game highlighted the need to ramp up production of high-priority munitions, help clear the $19 billion arms sale backlog to Taipei and bolster Pentagon cybersecurity cooperation with the island nation.
“It’s naïve to assume that we could somehow surge hard power to the Pacific,” Gallagher said Wednesday. “The proceedings accentuated this point and I believe surging stockpiles is something we could fix in a bipartisan fashion.”
The war games illustrated that the U.S. would need between 1,000 to 1,200 long-range anti-ship missiles in a conflict with China over Taiwan, and currently the U.S. has less than 250 in its inventory. Other high-priority munitions Gallagher identified are the Naval Strike Missiles, which U.S. Marines are fielding in Japan and the Philippines as part of an expeditionary ship interdiction system; Joint Strike Missiles; Joint Direct Attack Munitions; and SM-6 missiles.
Gallagher reiterated his call for congressional appropriations to fund multi-year munitions procurement as authorized in this year’s defense policy bill. But the fiscal year 2023 government funding bill allocated $687 million for the Army for two years to accelerate production “of critical munitions to replace defense articles” provided to Ukraine and its backers, far less than what he said is sufficient.
“We need to take action to deter [Chinese Communist Part] aggression and arm Taiwan to the teeth before any crisis begins,” said Gallagher in his statement. “The United States needs to deliver on our promises to clear the $19 billion weapons backlog to Taiwan, conduct enhanced joint military training and reinforce our military posture throughout the region.”
The Pentagon is also preparing to transfer weapons from existing U.S. stockpiles to Taiwan using presidential drawdown authority, the same mechanism President Joe Biden has used to arm Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. The Senate has also started work on a large China bill that will include components to bolster U.S. allies and partners in the Pacific.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.