American Enterprise Institute
Not Just an Air and Maritime Theater: The Army’s Role in the Indo-Pacific
Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, AEI
Christine Wormuth, US Secretary of the Army
Charles Flynn, Commanding General, US Army Pacific
Mackenzie Eaglen, Senior Fellow, AEI
Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, AEI
Christine Wormuth, US Secretary of the Army
Charles Flynn, Commanding General, US Army Pacific
Monday, February 27, 2023
Kori Schake: So, my friends, what a delight it is to see a full house this afternoon here at the American Enterprise Institute. I am Kori Schake. I have the great good fortune to lead the foreign and defense policy team here at AEI. And I am joined by my esteemed colleague, Mackenzie Eaglen, whose work on the defense budget for structure, defense industry, and in a report just about to come out also on defense reform is defining for AEI. And we have the pleasure today of talking with the leadership of the Army of the United States, including the secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, and the commander of the US Army in the Indo- Pacific, Gen. Flynn. Christine Wormuth, the secretary, if you were inventing the ideal credentialing for the secretary of the Army, you could hardly improve on Christine Wormuth, right? Graduate studies in public policy. She has been the undersecretary of defense for policy. She has been the senior director for defense policy on the NSC. She’s run the RAND Institute—RAND Institute’s or Organization’s International Defense and Foreign Studies. And we are very grateful to have the secretary with us today.
And also Gen. Flynn, who also, crazily enough, is well qualified for the job the Army gave him, having commanded at every level in the Army, including commanding the 82nd airborne. And having been the deputy commander of INDOPACOM, run the Army’s Combined Arms Center. Is everything a center of excellence now, or were you just a center for less than excellent? Anyway, a terrific soldier who’s very well attuned to the challenges of the theater in which he is commanding Army forces. And we are going to start today with, of course, the question that comes from the canon of strategy. By which I mean to say the movie The Princess Bride. In which all of you will know they say that one of the classic blunders is fighting a land war in Asia. And so we open today with the secretary and the general explaining to us whether that’s true, and what the Army’s role is in the Indo-Pacific region. Secretary Wormuth.
Christine Wormuth: Thanks, Kori. Thanks very much for having us. And thanks, Mackenzie, Gen. Flynn and I are delighted to be here. I think I would start by saying I love The Princess Bride, it’s a great movie. Our goal is to avoid fighting a land war in Asia. And my view is, the best way—I mean, so one, this is all about deterrence. We want to lower the temperature in the relationship with China. I personally am not of the view that an amphibious invasion of Taiwan is imminent. But we have to prepare. We’ve got to be prepared to fight and win that war. And I think the best way we avoid fighting that war is by showing the PRC and countries in the region that we can actually win that war. So when I think of the Army’s role in the Indo-Pacific, I really focus on deterrence. How do we build and strengthen deterrence while we’re campaigning? And then what do we do if deterrence fails?
So let me talk a little bit about both pieces of that. If I had a bumper sticker to try to capture the Army’s role in both of those phases, if you will, campaigning and war fighting, I would say land power is really staying power. That’s what we’re about. And in the campaigning phase, I really think what we’re doing is threefold. First of all, we are complicating China’s decision-making, President Xi’s decision-making. We have to really make him think every day about, if I were thinking about something aggressive against Taiwan, would I be just dealing with the United States or would I be dealing with a coalition, like the one he sees that we have built to defend Ukraine right now in Europe. And we play a key role in that. And it’s not just about
everyone sometimes says, “Oh all of the militaries in the Indo-Pacific are dominated by their armies, and we’re the Army, and we have good relationships. So that’s kind of what we’re about in the Indo-Pacific.”
It’s not about that. It’s not just relationships for relationship's sake. But I do think showing that we have a strong network of allies and partners in the region is really critical. And one of the ways that we do that is, for example, with our Fifth Security Force Assistance Brigade, which actually trains and operates with I think last year, it was 12 different countries, all of the big ones, the ROK, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand. And Gen. Flynn can talk about that at length. We also have something now called the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, which is where we are now—some of the militaries from these countries are coming and building readiness with us. Whether it’s in Hawaii, Alaska, or in other places. So that’s number one, during campaigning. Number two is by being in the Indo-Pacific, we are enhancing our access in the region. And that’s going to be really, really important.
And through the exercises that we have, for example, in many cases, we’re able to make improvements to some of the infrastructure that’s there in the region, that we would need to operate in the case of a conflict. Secretary Austin’s expansion to four more EDCA sites in the Philippines, really was and is a big deal. It was a little overshadowed, I think, because of the Chinese balloon. But that’s a really big deal. We look forward to talking to the Philippine Army about what opportunities are going to be there for us to work with them as a result of that. And again, that’s just one example. But I think we’re also looking at, how can we build some theater distribution centers in the region? , starting potentially with Australia, for example, which because of its location is outside of a lot of the missile ranges. And that’s a place where we could work with the Australians to build a hub, to have supplies to be able to move fuel around, for example.
And I think Guam is going to be the most important one of those distribution centers. But there are possibilities with Japan. I think there’s a lot we can do with Australia, and again, with the Philippines and the Singaporeans. Now in those two cases, it would probably be nonlethal equipment that would be there. But that’s the kind of thing that we need to be working on. And then I think the third piece of campaigning where we’re building deterrence is really by showing visible combat credible forces forward in the region. And again, Gen. Flynn can expand on this. But Operation Pacific Pathways is really how we’re doing this. And our goal is to have Army forces in the Indo-Pacific seven to eight months out of the year. And we have some very large exercises now. We have Garuda Shield, which used to be a bilateral exercise between us and the Indonesians, last year became Super Garuda Shield. We had 14 countries in that exercise with us. All of our sister services participated in that.
And then we have, for example, this year coming up, we’re going to have Talisman Sabre, where we are actually going to move Army prepositioned equipment from the Korean Peninsula using our Army watercraft to Australia. And that’s again, showing how we’re going to be doing this. We’ve got the Balikatan Exercise in the Philippines. And we’ll have our multi-domain task force participating in that. So I think countries in the region see that, China sees that, our allies and partners see that. Those are all things we’re doing in campaigning. And then if deterrence fails, and I’ll be brief on this, I
think there are really five core tasks that the Army has. First, I like to say that we are the linchpin force. And again, this gets to the staying power. It’s going to be our job to establish, then build up, then secure and protect staging bases for the Navy, for the Marines, for the Air Force. That’s why we’re really building out our integrated air and missile defense capabilities, for example, to be able to protect those kinds of staging bases that are going to be key.
The second really big thing we’re doing is sustaining the joint force. And that’s where those theater distribution centers come into play. We offer the opportunity to provide secure communications to the broader force, again, to provide intra-theater sustainment by setting up munition stockpiles, setting up forward air refueling points, and protecting them. All of that is going to be critically important given the vast distances, , that we’re looking at. And we’re expanding our watercraft. We’re going to have a watercraft company in Japan. So that’s going to be very, very important. We offer command and control at a scalable level. And I think Gen. Flynn can talk about that quite a bit more. We have the capacity to provide Joint Task Force Headquarters. And we could if the INDOPACOM commander wanted, serve as the combined joint force land component commander. So we just have a lot of capability there.
And then the last two things we do that would be critical is long-range fires. We can help interdict sea lines of communication. We can provide suppression of enemy air defenses. And we’ve actually got—a lot of people don’t know this, but our first battery of long-range hypersonic weapons is actually training with their ground equipment at JBLM right now. And by this fall, we will have our first battery of long-range hypersonic weapons. And that element will be part of our first multi-domain task force. So I think that’s very significant. And we’re also going to be bringing out the prototype for our midrange capability, which provides us the opportunity to take out mobile targets at long range.
And then the last thing we do, of course, is provide counter-attack forces if they’re needed. And there’s a lot of discussion about how that would work in which different scenarios. But I think those five tasks are incredibly important. The last thing I would say is, particularly if we got into a major war with China, the United States homeland would be at risk as well, with both kinetic attacks and non-kinetic attacks. Whether it’s cyberattacks on the power grid or pipelines. And the United States Army, I have no doubt, will be called to provide defense support to civil authorities. And that’s something that people often put as an asterisk, but it’s actually going to be incredibly important. , they are going to go after the will of the United States public. They’re going to try to erode support for a conflict. And I think the Army will play a role here at home.
Kori Schake: , during the Berlin crisis in 1958, when the Army chief of staff suggested to President Eisenhower that they needed to start moving troops to Europe, President Eisenhower’s reaction response was that he should be impeached if he did that. They would be needed to restore civil authority in Baltimore after the nuclear exchanges. So on that pressing note, Gen. Flynn, tell us about the Army in the Indo-Pacific?
Charles Flynn: Kori, Mackenzie, Madam Secretary, thanks for having me today. As the title suggests here today, and as the theater is named after two oceans, I’m just here to offer that this is not only an air and maritime theater, this is a joint theater. It’s got joint challenges and
joint problems. And it requires joint solutions. So I’m the land component commander, I’m a land guy. I was the 25th Infantry Division commander going back to 2014 and 2016. And then I was in that region all the way to ’18, as the deputy commanding general, for both Vince Brooks and for Bob Brown. And so I’ve been watching the ground forces and the PLA since 2014. And they are on a historical trajectory. The military arm that they have created is extraordinary. They are rehearsing, they are practicing, they are experimenting, and they are preparing those forces for something. But you don’t build up that kind of arsenal to just defend and protect. You probably are building that for other purposes. So the point I’d make here is that, a couple of things.
First of all, the Chinese have and they’re operating on—they have three things that we do not have. They’re operating on what’s called interior lines. They’re right next to their primary objective. And make no doubt about it, the prize is Taiwan and the land. The second thing that they have is they have mass, they have a lot. And then of course they have magazine depth. They have a lot of munitions, a lot of arrows in their quiver. I’d also like to communicate that the A2AD arsenal that the Chinese have designed is primarily designed to defeat air and maritime capabilities. And secondarily, it’s designed to degrade, disrupt, and deny space and cyber. It is not, however, designed to find, fix, and finish mobile, networked, dispersed, reloadable ground forces that are lethal and nonlethal, that are operating amongst their allies and partners in the region. This is an important point.
So I would really like to communicate three sort of special initiatives or unique initiatives that we have going on in the theater. Really, the secretary talked about a number of the strategic ends that her vision has for the theater. But the reality of it is, I’m going to explain three ways that we’re going about executing those ends that the secretary just talked about. The first one is JPMRC, Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center. As many of , there has been for almost 50 years a training center in Europe, by Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. Of course, that training center plays a pivotal role right now. And then there’s two training centers in the continental United States, one in Louisiana and one in California. We never created one in the Pacific, but we have one now. There’s two campuses, one in Hawaii and one up in Alaska. Of course, Hawaii has got an eight Island archipelago throughout the state. It’s jungle, it’s tropic, it’s surrounded by joint forces. And we do rotations there every year for the 25th Infantry Division.
The Alaska campus has got the Yukon and Donnelly training area. It’s a massive piece of property that the Army manages, to include the airspace. And in that area, what you have is high altitude, extreme cold weather, and mountainous. And then we have an exportable version that we brought into Indonesia in ’21 and ’22, on the islands of Sumatra and Java. And this year, we’re going to bring that exportable training capability from the JPMRC into Talisman Sabre, and a place called Rockhampton, Shoalwater Bay up in the northeast corner. So the first point is, we have created the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center. It’s the Army’s contribution to what’s called PMTEC, which is the Pacific Multinational Training and Experimentation Capability, which has been at INDOPACOM since Admiral Locklear. And what we’re doing at JPMRC is we’re generating readiness. We’re generating that readiness, and then we’re projecting it into the region.
The second thing I’d like to talk about, which is Operation Pathways. And Operation Pathways is putting combat credible forces forward in the region for extended periods of
time. And it really does three things. It increases our interoperability with our allies and partners, the human technical and procedural interoperability. And it increases confidence in our relationship together. The second thing it does is it increases our joint readiness because we’re operating as a joint force. And the third thing it does is it’s denying key terrain, human and physical terrain, from the PRC, which are in all of the subregions across the area, from South Asia to Southeast Asia, to Oceania, to Northeast Asia, to include the Arctic Circle. So pathways is our way of campaigning. Pathways is our posture. Pathways is just posture without MILCON. Pathways is our reinforcing to our allies and partners in the region by forward positioning capabilities for extended periods of time.
And then the third thing that we’re working on, and many of these are anchored by the core five that the secretary talked about, is we’re creating joint interior lines. Now, joint interior lines is actually composed of foundational capabilities that only the Army provides at scale. Those capabilities are command and control at echelon, protection by way of mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability through engineering. The other layers of protection are, counter UAS level one to three threats, short range air defense, midrange with patriots, and then upper tier with theater ballistic missiles. The third way we’re doing this is through sustainment, activating our APS stocks in Korea and Japan. We have seven vessels afloat for APS3.
We are layering into Operation Pathways’ activity sets in a wide range of locations where we either dynamically deployed or permanently positioned there, mostly in Korea and Japan.
But also we’re rotating forces there for today, for example, in Korea. Soon we’ll jump—I’m sorry, from Thailand, with Cobra Gold and Hanuman Guardian. We’ll go to Balikatan and Salaknibin the Philippines. We’ll jump down to Garuda Shield in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. And then down to Talisman Sabre in Australia, then up into Japan. And effectively, what we’re doing by creating these interior lines is, we’re taking time and space away from the PRC so we can extend indications and warnings for the National Command Authority, so we can close the force, protect the force, and be able to take decision space away from the PRC.
The last thing we’re doing on those interior lines, is we are working to put collection sensors out there to see, sense, and understand, so we can contribute from the ground and tie together a terrestrial layer, an arial layer, and a space layer, to do intelligence support the joint targeting. That’s necessary for us to provide those joint long range precision fires, and necessary for us to be able to maneuver and provide other forces to the joint force in support of our allies and partners, and in support of what the joint force must achieve. I’ll end on this point by saying exactly what the secretary said up front. These three ways that I’m describing, JPMRC, Pathways, and joint interior lines is really to deter this war from occurring. I mean, our goal out there is no war, but we have to be in a position and be forward with combat credible forces to deter that from happening. And if that happens to fail, then we’re at least in a position to take advantage with the joint force, to achieve the national objectives that are set up by the National Command Authority and the president. And I’ll stop there. I look forward to your questions. Thanks, Kori, Mackenzie, and the secretary.
Kori Schake: So I apologize that I mistook your division command.
Charles Flynn: That’s OK. I was the deputy commanding general of the 82nd, just for the record.
Kori Schake: And neglected to mention that you’d also been the G357 of the Army, which that’s a nontrivial credentialing for the work that you’re doing now. And Mackenzie, I said nothing of yours, because your work speaks so loudly, I feel like I don’t even need to. So, grade their homework, Mackenzie, how’s this looking for you?
Mackenzie Eaglen: You make very compelling cases. It’s important, I think, to penetrate the DC’s conventional wisdom bubble with the reality on the ground. I remember reading an article last week there was a CNN crew aboard a military plane, and then they were tailed by—tailed by, that’s not even the right word. It’s confronted by a Chinese fighter. And it was funny when asked later, I can’t remember which military commander, they basically were, like, “This was just a shock to see.” And then they were like, “This is just another day in the South China Sea.” So I do want to get a sense of what it’s actually like there on the ground just on a daily basis. Are tensions high? , what’s happening? But then what I want to ask specifically is about, is there anything applicable, lessons learned from Ukraine? I feel like if you ask 10 people in Washington, what are the lessons learned about Ukraine that might be relevant to Taiwan, you’ll get 11 answers.
And so it’s kind of everybody, whatever they wanted it to be. And I’m nervous because Washington’s conventional wisdom, which again, should scare us all is increasingly that Ukraine is a one off. It’s a World War I artillery-style event, won’t happen again. But yet, as a result of Ukraine, our munitions cupboard is largely—it’s not bare. Doug Bush is helping make sure that’s not true. But it’s stretched, because the assumptions about conflict, I think, are rosier than we want them to be. So, take that any which direction you want. We’ll start with you.
Christine Wormuth: Why don’t you start, Gen. Flynn, with what it’s like on the ground since you are in theater. He’s rarely in Washington. He’s always in theater.
Charles Flynn: I think what I’d say is, the activity, and I’ll go across the region, right? I mean, out in the Western Theater Command, there are 12 airfields that they have created in the Western Theater Command. Most of those in the size of Dulles. They’ve moved to corps of PLA along the line of actual control. They’ve built heliports and SAM sites. They have choked off freshwater in the Mekong River. There is lines of communication that are being cut through Miramar, through Pakistan, to get access to the Ottoman Sea. There’s 1.2 million refugees in a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh. And that’s just in South Asia, that’s 10 countries, two billion people. Southeast Asia is trending in a positive direction. I’m really encouraged by what’s happening in Singapore, in Malaysia, in the Philippines, in Indonesia. But if you go out to Oceania, I would say, it’s under duress. A similar approach that they’re taking in South Asia out in Oceania is their currency is corruption.
They get into a loan deal with business leaders, or political leaders, or military and police leaders, and then they can’t pay that loan back. They get into their IT backbone, they get into their electrical grid, they get into warehouses, piers, airfields, ports, and they get access.
They get access to what? They get access to terrain. Places like Kiribati, Solomons, PNG. And there are challenges out there. A little bit of that happened as a result of COVID
because we had to seal the islands up and people went about their business. But now we have to enter back in there. The administration is doing some great stuff out there to open embassies back up and make sure we have a presence out there. But our presence needs to be felt because it’s essentially on the doorstep of the homeland. And then I don’t have to tell this crowd, but the Korean activity here in the last year is unprecedented compared—I was out there in ’16 and ’17, when the last real dust up started, and it was very, very dangerous. And he’s about 30 shots beyond that already.
And then, of course, the activity in the South and East China Sea and around Taiwan, I mean, the cross-centerline work, the activities of the PLA Navy. I can’t go into great detail in here on what’s happening on the ground. But I can tell you that the PLA Army and the PLA rocket forces and the strategic support forces are in dangerous positions. And so they’re rehearsing, they’re exercising, they’re experimenting. And then, of course, I’ll just use two examples, the post Speaker Pelosi conduct, and then this recent balloon over the top of the United States and our sovereign territory. Both very irresponsible and aggressive behavior, and the region sees that. And they don’t like what they see. And that’s why I think you’re getting reactions out of countries like South Korea, and Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and a number of others. So, that’s a little bit of the state of play in the region.
Kori Schake: So if I could ask a question. I was really struck by something you said, Secretary, about limbering up forces and equipment on the Korean Peninsula for other missions. And that strikes me as a real advance, given how the spoke and hub nature of alliance relationships in the Pacific has been an impediment to lots of things that need doing. What do you guys need that you don’t have? Or what do you need more of, whether it’s diplomatic agreements, access agreements, money, authorities, from the American government that can help you do the kinds of things that fully respond to this threat that we’re hearing about from Gen. Flynn?
Christine Wormuth: Well, I think the biggest thing is defense diplomacy and securing agreements with countries in the region to allow us to do more. And not just the Army, but the other services as well. Everyone always wants to move faster. And we’d like to move faster but I know from my time as USDP, that you can only move as fast as host nations are willing to move in terms of signing agreements. And for obvious reasons, it’s a complicated neighborhood. A lot of the countries in the region have very robust economic relationships with the PRC. So I think we do have to be mindful of the fact that those countries are going to make decisions on their own timelines, and what they see that makes sense for their national interest.
But I think to all the points that Gen. Flynn was making about what countries like Japan, Australia, and the South Koreans see in the region right now, are changing rapidly. And when I look back at how Japan saw itself, and saw its role, and saw the role of the Self Defense Forces 10 years ago, it has changed dramatically. I mean, I think the folks in the Philippines have expanded the EDCA agreement sites because of their concerns about what they see the PRC doing. So I would like to see us continue to sort of have wins like those four new sites. But our job in the Army certainly is to just be as ready as we can to take advantage of those agreements when they get signed.
Charles Flynn: If I might, I think, important to point out, I’ll just use three countries, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia. Each of those countries are creating what we would call combat training centers. In Indonesia, one is over on the island of Sumatra, on the eastern coast of Java, and then up in Borneo because they’ve got 17,500 islands that they’re spread across. The Philippines, in one of the EDCA sites, at Fort Magsaysay, there’s a training area there that they seek to put a training center together. And then of course, the one in Australia in the northeast corner in Townsville, Rockhampton. These are all areas where they want to collaborate and partner with the US Army because we know how to do combat training centers. And so, the expertise and the skill that we can get to enable them to do that is just invaluable. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to do those things about interoperability partnerships. And really being able to conduct training and share techniques and procedures for us to be able to have better interoperability as a deterrent in the region.
Kori Schake: Mackenzie, you are the country’s best defense budget analyst. Is the Congress giving the Army and the administration giving the Army what it needs to do this?
Mackenzie Eaglen: Yes and no. I worry about—, there’s a Venn diagram overlap of things that you might need for competition and deterrence, which could also be useful if there’s a kinetic conflict. But I worry that we’re starving some of the deterrent capabilities, whatever that might be. I’m pleased with the progress. Dr. Ratner said here this year is going to be generational for force posture change. And we’re cheering it on every step of the way. But I worry about the gaps in the competition and deterrence. And just where many seem to think there’s going to just be—whatever we buy, and preparing and posture for, for the war is going to be sufficient for everything short of that. That’s what keeps me up at night. Although Gen. Flynn, I’m not going to sleep for a week after having you here.
Because it’s tremendous what’s happening there.
I do want to ask, though, about a different kind of act of war. Do we overfocus on the invasion scenario in Washington over quarantine and blockade, which to me are far more legally and politically complicated militarily, but also the decision timeline cycles in Washington. Invasions, soldiers like how to do that, defend against that, deter that best. But the other two are also acts of war. And correct me about the previous Speaker’s visit, I saw different elements being dress rehearsed of all three scenarios. The current House Speaker is headed to Taiwan, also, I believe, next month or in April. So we’ll get some more out of that. But is there an overemphasis on the invasion scenario at the expense of the others?
Christine Wormuth: I think certainly we spend a lot of time in the department thinking about the invasion scenario because it’s the most stressful and it’s the most demanding. I think it’s appropriate to give it a lot of thought. I will say I wanted to return a little bit, Mackenzie, to the other part of the question you had about conventional wisdom. There have been a lot of war games done outside of the department. Having been at RAND, for example, I’ll just point to some RAND work. And a lot of those war games show that it won’t be necessarily a quick, sharp even, a Taiwan scenario, excuse me. There’s definitely the possibility of a protracted conflict. So I do think the magazine depth issue is a real one. And I think, again, everything we’re seeing in Ukraine shows us that we have to ramp up production. That the kind of peacetime, just in time supply chain model is not appropriate.
I think, certainly, we’re doing a lot in the Army to ramp up our own organic industrial bases, and to work very closely with industry to see them ramp up their industrial base.
And we have gotten multiyear procurement authority from Congress in a couple of instances. They are going to make good use of that. And we’re, I hope, going to do two more big contracts next year looking at gamblers, for example, to really increase our buys. I’m not sure we’ve bought into the conventional wisdom that it’s going to be short. The Army is preparing for it to be longer. And I think we do need to think about blockade scenarios or even other things. And the Army has done some work analytically looking at what if there’s sort of a border clash, for example, between India and China, that spikes? Or there could be something some coercive belligerent behavior in the South China Sea or around the Senkakus. And we do have to, I think, continue to think about those in addition to the Taiwan scenario.
Kori Schake: So Mackenzie, before I go back to you, I want to add a point to the secretary’s very good one, which is, Congress passing the defense budget on time is hugely consequential for the ability to do these things well. What I know from Mackenzie’s work is that the three months delay getting the defense appropriation cost the department $18 billion in lost ability to buy things. That’s a lot of ammunition that could have gone into stockpiles, that Congress not doing its fundamental constitutional responsibility cost the American defense establishment.
Christine Wormuth: And just to build on that, Kori, our comptroller has done some work looking at, —before sort of the 2011, 2012 kind of period, as we moved into the Budget Control Act and sequestration continuing resolutions happened, but they tended to be about three months long, relatively short. On the other side of the Budget Control Act and kind of post-sequestration we’ve gotten into much more, like six-month-long CRs and beyond. And if you think about it, that’s really sort of preparing to deter with one hand behind your back. It is hard for us to compete effectively and do everything we need to do vis-à-vis the PRC, if for six months of the year, we, for example, can’t have any new starts for programs. So some of the key new weapons systems that the Army is developing, will be impacted if we go into an extended continuing resolution. So that is very problematic at a time when everyone is worried about timelines.
Kori Schake: I’m sorry for interrupting Mackenzie to infuse your work into the conversation.
Mackenzie Eaglen: OK. Go ahead, Gen. Flynn.
Charles Flynn: I was just going to say the picture that I was describing around the region, I want to come back to this question of the invasion force. , that is a highly complex operation. So I often remind people that in order to invade Taiwan, you have to generate an invasion force. You’re not going to do it through H6 bombers, and subs, and ships. You’re going to have to generate an invasion force. Well, in order to generate that, you have to assemble, you have to move it, you have to combat configure it, you have to combat load it. And that’s just to get off of mainland China. Then you have to go across 80 to 100 mile straight, then you have to seize, hold, defend, and consolidate gains in Taiwan. So,
while there are challenges out there, I will tell you that the complexity of a joint island landing campaign is not a small matter. And you have to be an incredibly professional, well trained, well lead force. And they’re working on it. But I will tell you that, from my perspective, they’re not 10 feet tall. They have work to do.
And I think that now is the time for us to get into position to be able to deter that event from happening. And that goes to the five core tasks that the secretary has asked us to do. It goes to what Adm. Aquilino was asking us to do out in the Pacific to put together improved posture and to the three parts that I described are the three ways by which we’re trying to contribute to that enhanced posture.
Kori Schake: Mackenzie, I’m sorry, I keep drawing on your substantive expertise and not letting you ask your own questions. But please go ahead.
Mackenzie Eaglen: No, I just want to return to, I was really struck by the secretary’s comments about what you’re going to do with pre-positioned assets and the watercraft. Because I’ve heard Army leader after Army leaders say that’s why we were able to support Ukraine instantly, is because the Army took the pre-po equipment out of the warehouse, dusted it off, tested the parts, and then exercised with it, and turned on the engines, ran the machines, saw what worked and what didn’t. The road couldn’t support this one, but it could support that, etc. And that’s what helped. So I’m struck by that. But I want to go back to, before we turn to any audience questions and final questions from Kori, lessons learned from Ukraine, for Taiwan. Anything that’s jumping out—or just we’re just smarter now in general, and here’s what we know.
Christine Wormuth: I think what I would emphasize is that there are lessons for many parties, I would say, coming out of the Ukraine situation. I think one lesson is clear, it’s the old saying of strategy is for amateurs, and logistics are for professionals. Logistics, logistics, logistics. The Russians have found logistics to be very hard. And I think logistics will be very hard in the Indo-Pacific in the event of a conflict. And so we really have to focus on that. But I’m pleased to say, for example, Gen. Flynn has a war game called Unified Pacific. And one of the things it’s focusing on this spring is contested logistics, and really digging into that. And I had asked the head of Army Materiel Command, Gen. Ed Daly, to partner with Gen. Flynn and really focus on the contested logistic requirements for the Indo-Pacific. And they have really done a great job of coming up with sort of a list of requirements, if you will, at the tactical, operational, and strategic level. So we’re really trying to focus on that.
I think another lesson coming out of the Ukraine conflict is the importance of unmanned aerial systems, whether it’s how they can be helpful offensively for us, or how important it’s going to be to defend against them. That’s clearly a real thing that we have to be concerned about. I think another major lesson that’s relevant in the Taiwan situation is the importance of asymmetric capabilities and helping Taiwan become a porcupine. And I know that when I went to Taiwan many, many years ago, in the stone age, in the late ’90s, they were really focused on what I would call kind of the sexy platforms, fighter jets and things like that. And that’s not what they need most. It wasn’t what they needed most then, and it’s definitely not what they needed most now. And so I think for them, thinking about that, and us through
the Taiwan Relations Act and arm sales, working on that with them. And it’s an important lesson.
Mackenzie Eaglen: Desperate to ask about balloons and if that’s changing the Army’s role in Homeland Defense, but I will leave that to our audience. Kori, you get the last question before we open it up.
Kori Schake: The concern that some people have, a lot of Asian experts have, is that we are drawing down things we may need for the defense of Taiwan by providing them to Ukraine. How do you respond to that? I mean, my answer is, we actually need to have the ability to do both these things that great powers can’t over-specialize to one thing. We actually need to be able to do both. But on a scale of say, one to 10, particularly you, Gen.
Flynn, how concerned are you that what is needed to help continue to decimate the Russian threat by the Ukrainian military might impede our ability to assist regional allies in Asia?
Charles Flynn: Yeah, well, our forces are ready, so I don’t have a readiness concern. And if I tie together the previous question, the other thing I think that’s a lesson that I think is important for our forces being ready and being forward is, as you’re seeing in Europe, our weapons work compared to some other countries. And there’s confidence in the region about our systems, Javelin, HIMARS, Stinger, you name it. So, again, I think that our positioning forward through the ways that I was describing creates conditions for operational endurance. And it increases the confidence of our allies and partners in our interoperability. So the secretary, and I, and the chief, we’ve had a number of conversations, they’re continuing to go on about prioritization. It’s a challenge across the world, because of the global commitments. And that’s particularly true, I think, for the Army. I can’t speak for the other services. But I will just tell you that the three ways that I was describing through a training center in the region, pathways—, again, if you think back to how we got into the particular stance that we are in Europe today, they have a training center in Europe. They had Operation Atlantic resolved, they had EDI. That just didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a span of about five to seven years.
And so that staying power that the secretary was talking about is what we seek. And so I think if we can stay forward, and to your point, Mackenzie, about Dr. Ratner’s comment, ’23 is a really important year. Because the payload of exercises in pathways is really at its zenith here in ’23. Because it’s a Talisman Sabre year, we have PAC Century, which is a JTF certification for the TJFLCC, my command, and also Pacific fleet as the TJFMC. And we’re going to have upwards of 20,000 forces west of the International Dateline joint forces. And then a bulk of those are anywhere between 6,000 and 9,000 for Army forces west. So I think this is an important year to get in position, create enduring advantage, and build out those three ways that I was talking about. And so, we’re ready to do that and our forces are ready today to be able to respond if need be, in the event that something goes in the direction we don’t want it to go.
Mackenzie Eaglen: Kori, Gen. Flynn just reminded me since you are our best megaphone here for the work of our team. The European Deterrence Initiative, the EDI, I fear we’ve acronymed out our audience. The European Deterrence Initiative was through supplemental spending. And the Pacific Deterrence Initiative is really just rebidding and tagging exercise of budget. It’s an internal this is something for the Pacific. It’s not new additional
money. I think that we should have a conversation in Washington about the need for additional money, particularly as the bills are in jeopardy of moving except maybe one more supplemental. But it would be nice if the Pacific Deterrence Initiative were funded like the European one, and over a long period of time. So thank you for that reminder. I want to encourage our online audience as well, and for you here in the room, we’re going to come to you next, to feel free to submit questions. We have about 10 minutes left. I believe on your screen, you can see that those questions can be sent through email to email@example.com. C-O-L-E-T-T-A. But what I have here are a few questions already pre-baked, but I’m going to look around the room first since you schlepped out in the rain, and are all here today.
Kori Schake: So, can I take two together at the start, from two of the sharpshooting journalists at this table?
Lara Seligman: Hi, Lara Seligman with Politico. Thanks for doing this. Mackenzie, you mentioned you had balloon questions. So hopefully I will ask that one. For Gen. Flynn, how frequently do your forces see balloons of this nature that are operated by the Chinese? I spoke with Gen. Grynkewich from CENTCOM, from AFCENTrecently, and he said they see them relatively frequently, even that far away. So how often are you interacting with these kinds of balloons?
Charles Flynn: I see them when they’re reported. But other than that, I don’t see them.
Lara Seligman: Your forces, I should say. Do your do your forces see these balloons?
Charles Flynn: Only when reported. We don’t have sensors at that altitude to be picking up those. So it’s not something that we’re going to pick up with the land forces that are forward.
Lara Seligman: Is this a concern for your forces in the region?
Charles Flynn: No. Somebody else does that in the region with the other capabilities. But that’s not a role that US Army Pacific has.
Lara Seligman: Right. But if the balloons are floating over—
Kori Schake: I think he’s giving the only answer that you’re going to get on that, my friend.
Lara Seligman: It seems like it might be a concern if they’re floating over your facilities.
Charles Flynn: Sure. It’s a concern, but you asked me, do we see it? And I said, when reported, we see it.
Madalina: Thank you. According to the CIA, Sunday, China has doubts about its ability to invade—
Kori Schake: Please tell us who you are.
Madalina: I’m sorry?
Kori Schake: Please tell us who you are.
Madalina: Oh, my name is Madalina from the Epoch Times. Thank you for taking my question. So I was just saying that the CIA made a statement on Sunday that maybe China has doubts on invading Taiwan. Do you have any comments or?
Christine Wormuth: I think what I would say is I think Gen. Flynn laid out very effectively the complexity of an amphibious invasion of an island like Taiwan. So I would imagine while China has greatly modernized its military over the last 20 years, that is not a military operation for the faint of heart. So I would imagine President Xi may have questions about how successfully the PLA could do that.
Kori Schake: Kevin Baron in the back.
Kevin Baron: Thanks, Kori. Kevin Baron from Defense One. General, good to see you. My question for you is, as a military man who’s in the region, what’s the difference from how you view the China threat versus how you see it portrayed in the press and politics today now that you’re here in Washington? It’s become a real touchstone of whether you’re a loyalist or not. And it’s in the campaigns. It often gets simplified by balloons. You’ve laid out a lot of the needs that you have. But how do you view the threat that’s different from the public?
Charles Flynn: Well, I guess I view it through the lens of my time watching it. So I’ll just say, when I was there from ’14 to ’18, in ’15, they went through a reorganization. And they were on a path of modernization at the same time. So then they established their theater commands. And by the time I left in ’18, they were doing some interesting things. I mean, they had built the islands, they had actually seized them, then built them, then armed them. And so, the reorganization of the theater command structure, the emphasis on joint, the modernization and the training. I guess, when I left in ’18, I was concerned, and then I came back here to DC to be the G357. And I still paid attention to it. But when I went back in ’21, between ’21, ’22, and ’23, I think the difference between what I’ve seen is they’re exercising, they’re training, they’re rehearsing. And just, I guess the payload of activities that they’re doing with all of their services, from the rocket forces, to the strategic support forces, to space, cyber, land and sea.
And so, Kevin, to your point, like, here’s ’14 to ’18, and then I see ’21, ’22, and ’23. And then I think out to ’26, ’27, ’28, ’29. And absent them slowing down, that’s a dangerous trajectory that they’re on. Couple that to—, so that would be the incremental approach of modernizing, training, reorganizing. And you couple that to the approaches that they’re taking, the subregions, sort of the insidious nature of the corrosive— , their currency is corruption. And they’re getting into deals out there that create access for them. And our currency is really our values, and our principles, and the way we operate in the region. And I think that’s what gives me concern as I watch it. And maybe that helps draw a picture here for folks that are not in the region. They’re just here in Washington.
Kori Schake: Let’s taking one last question in the room right here in the middle, and then they Mackenzie, we will have about five minutes left for online questions.
Chandler Myers: Hello. My name is Chandler Myers. I’m an analyst at Palace Advisors here in DC. So my question is, there was a lot of mention about different countries operating
in the region. However, it took us a bit to get to any sort of mention of India. So my question is really centered on that. So what is the Army’s role in the Indo-Pacific without India? And is that challenge made harder without India’s support?
Christine Wormuth: We have a really good relationship with the Indian Army. They actually came to us prior to when I was Secretary of the Army. But it’s a pretty tense border situation right now with the Chinese. And we provided them quite a bit of cold weather equipment that was very, very helpful to the Indians and I think they were very appreciative of that. So we have a very strong bilateral relationship. We have routine exercises with them that Gen. Flynn can probably speak to a little bit more. Again, it’s a complicated neighborhood. India has a long-standing relationship with the Russians in terms of arms and things like that. So I think we just have to keep working with them. And I would say India is another country like Japan, like the South Koreans, who’ve become increasingly concerned about Chinese behavior. And I think that will more and more, we will have interests that converge and overlap in that regard.
Charles Flynn: Yeah. I echo exactly what the secretary mentioned on the extreme cold weather gear. I would also say this past year, we had what’s called the Exercise Yudh Abhyas, which is where they asked us to train up in the Himalayas at 10,000 feet. That exercise will be in Alaska now with 11th Airborne Division. Now we have very good cross- training exercise with them in the kinds of conditions that they can teach us certain things and then we of course, want to share some of those. Last point I’d make on this is, we do a Indo-Pacific Army chiefs conference every year in the region. This past year, we did it in Bangladesh. In ’23, we’re going to do that in India. So the Indian Army accepted the invitation to cohost that with US Army Pacific. And it’s the largest Army conference in the region. And it’s cohosted this year with India and us. And I find that to be a very encouraging part of our relationship here in the near term.
Kori Schake: Mackenzie, we have time for one or two online questions.
Mackenzie Eaglen: Great. Well, in the sign of just how large America’s Army is and how difficult it is to get any time with Gen. Flynn, I actually have a question from one of your fellow colleagues and a fellow US Army general. And he can only find you at AEI. But it’s actually about Japan, one of our closest allies, which I’m thrilled that it might be, in fact, the last question. And he’s wondering, what concrete steps we’re taking, you and the secretary are taking, to increase our footprint in Japan rotationally or permanently. And working with their security defense forces, the interoperability potential, especially given the emphasis on long range fires.
Charles Flynn: So, the secretary mentioned the composite watercraft accompany. So that’s an active component. Composite watercraft company that will be going into Yokohama North Docks, which is right in Tokyo Harbor here, beginning late this year. So that’s one addition. I often refer to the Army in Japan as a sort of first-round welterweight fighter. We don’t have many people there, but we have two TPY-2 radars there. We have a patriot battalion there down in Kadena and Okinawa. We have a regional support group in Okinawa. We have a mission training complex in Camp Zama. We have Yokohama, North Docks and Tokyo Harbor. We have the Port of Naha in Okinawa. And then of course, US Army Japan
provides RSO&I for all the joint forces coming over there. A couple of things that I think are really excited. First, Gen. Yoshida, the chief of the Ground Self Defense Forces, this last year, he asked us to put exercise oriented shield down in the southwest islands. We had HIMARS and their SSM-12s, down on an island called Emami Island.
We also, in exercise, Yama Sakura, which is First Corps CPX with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. They actually invited the Australians to send observers and the Philippines to send observers. In fact, Gen. Bronner, the chief of the Philippine Army, came to Japan during Yama Sakura and we did a trilat between the US Army, Japanese Army, and the Philippine Army. And next year, in Yama Sakura, we’ll have a US division, a Philippine division, an Australian division, and of course, multiple division level equipments, which is really regional armies in the Japanese Army. And as many of , the Japanese have doubled their defense budget. They’re investing in counter strike capabilities. And another, I think, important point is they’ve added a joint command into their structure. So these are all really positive things. I have a very close relationship with Gen. Yoshida, the chief of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. I’m really encouraged by the work that we’re doing together in Japan, across all of the regional armies there.
Kori Schake: Secretary Wormuth, the last word is yours.
Christine Wormuth: The only thing I think I would add to what Gen. Flynn said is at the last big sort of Secretary Austin and his counterpart in Japan, I forget whether we call it the two plus two, there are so many different constructs. But they made the announcement about the Marine Littoral Regiment. And I think, to my comments earlier about wanting to continue to explore with countries like Japan, with Australia, with the Philippines, what more we can do, I think our Multi-Domain Task Force has a lot of potential and could be very, very useful. So I hope that as we continue to talk with the Japanese about what more we can do, I think there are opportunities for us. And I think the Marine Littoral Regiment and the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force which has long-range fires capabilities but also brings together a lot of non-kinetic capabilities in terms of information operations, space capabilities, electronic warfare, intelligence. That’s something that I think could really be valuable in Japan at some point if we’re able to do that rotationally.
Kori Schake: So, my friends, thank you for your time today. Why don’t you join me in thanking these terrific leaders of the Army for this education. And of course, to the good and great Mackenzie Eaglen.