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One of the essential hallmarks of deterrence is the ability to effectively detect – and therefore prepare for – a potential adversary’s hostile action in a timely fashion. Just as the threat of effective retaliation must be credible, deterrence also depends on a robust ability to identify and assess aggressive acts, including acts of coercion that fall below the threshold of kinetic conflict. Recent Chinese actions toward Taiwan, for example, have heightened the conviction among U.S. and allied defense planners that effective, interoperable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are essential for the security of the entire Indo-Pacific theater.
Given the rapid pace of change throughout Asia in recent decades, assessing China’s longer-term trajectory – and that of the Indo-Pacific region as a whole – represents a huge challenge for defense and security planners. Attempts to predict China’s strategic posture 15 to 30 years from now are hampered by a far more volatile security environment than that which governed the Cold War era.
The United States is increasingly engaged in a long-term competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation–a competition in which U.S. defense leaders and experts argue the U.S. military is falling behind technologically and operationally. U.S. forces, however, may be unable to gain and maintain superiority over their great power competitors by simply using improved versions of today’s forces to conduct modest variations on existing tactics.
The U.S. Navy’s surface fleet is at a crossroads. Today’s force lacks the size, resilience, and offensive capacity to contribute effectively to degrading, delaying, or denying aggression.
The proliferation and growing sophistication of civilian and military EMS capabilities has resulted in an increasingly congested and contested electromagnetic environment for which the U.S. military is unprepared. Over the past decade, several government and external assessments found that the U.S. military is falling behind Chinese and Russian forces in electronic warfare (EW) and that U.S. forces will be challenged to achieve EMS superiority in future conflicts.
Now that the United States has suspended its participation in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the time has come to explore seriously the case for deploying ground-launched theater-range missiles.