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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The U.S. Military Is In Decline While China Grows More Powerful

J-20 Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Chinese Military.

Among our military’s senior brass, the chorus of warnings over Chinese military capabilities continues to grow ever louder. Last week, the Commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, stated that when it comes to America’s ability to deter China, “the ship is slowly sinking.” He added, “it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability into the field faster than we are.”

In other words, America’s conventional deterrence is in increasingly rapid decline. This is for a variety of reasons but one of the most prominent is due to the military’s lack of margin. There is little slack in the force for deterrence in zero-sum budgeting for winning the warfight. The result is aging, shrinking, less ready troops lacking enough capacity and not modernizing fast enough.

The Air Force flies planes with an average age of 29 years old. The Navy is shrinking to 280 ships by 2037. And, the Army continues to grow smaller, missing out on last year’s recruiting goal by 25 percent. None of these problems at the root of our flagging conventional deterrence are new.

In fact, the brass have been sounding the alarm for a while now. Last September, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said the military was “still moving unbelievably slow” at modernization designed to directly compete with China. General John Hyten lamented how the Pentagon is “so bureaucratic and we’re so risk averse.”

Summing up America’s position vis-à-vis China, the former head for military intelligence in Indo-Pacific Command simply commented that the US is “too late.”

The United States is “too late” in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy. “Too late in realizing the mortal danger. Too late in preparedness. Too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance.”

When paired with remarks by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mile Gilday recently, the US’s ability to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan looks increasingly dire. In his words, “When we talk about the 2027 window [for an invasion of Taiwan], in my mind, that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window; I can’t rule it out.”

Both China’s willingness to take Taiwan by force and its ability to do so appear to be increasing. It is past due for the Pentagon to break out of neutral and get ready for the “big one” in Asia.

That starts with heavy investment in conventional capabilities suited for stopping the Chinese from executing a fait accompli against Taiwan. We should be purchasing more destroyers, attack submarines, precision-guided munitions, and other capabilities that would make a difference in destroying the thrust of a Chinese invasion force.

With more capacity, the US can also effectively adjust and resource a posture change in the Indo-Pacific by moving more forces in theater to deter China. The Army should reorganize two of its brigade combat teams for large-island defense and send a Security Force Assistance Brigade to the region. Marine Littoral Regiments should be positioned in the First Island Chain and sustainment assets like munitions stores should be moved closer to Taiwan.

Our dwindling munitions production must be ramped up. Stocks of standoff munitions, like the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), are woefully inadequate, with the Air Force and Navy due to have only 629 in their combined possession by 2027. America should be producing many more of these weapons, as well as the Stingers, Javelins, and other capabilities provided to Ukraine.

More munitions should also flow to the Taiwanese themselves as they are staring down a $14 billion backlog of arms sales. Simply put, Taiwan needs to be made into a “porcupine” and, learning lessons from Ukraine, we should be giving Taiwan all sorts of asymmetric capabilities needed to disrupt an invasion, like sea mines and coastal defense cruise missiles.

Congress, too, must increase the urgency with which they act by passing defense bills on time, enacting reform proposals before commission reports are complete, and providing the right contracting authorities to grow capacity and increase margin.


J-35 Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Chinese Internet.

That means a budget which accounts for inflation and grows spending by at least 3-5 percent in real terms. And, it also means a budget better in balance by spreading investments more evenly across readiness, capability (R&D) and capacity (procurement). The military needs to invest more in buying capabilities that have a chance of being fielded this decade rather than the next.

Policymakers should heed military warnings and shake off America’s strategic atrophy. Allowing deterrence to fail is not an option. China is watching.

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Mackenzie Eaglen is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness. She is also a regular guest lecturer at universities, a member of the board of advisers of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and a member of the steering committee of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security.

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Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Mackenzie Eaglen is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness. She is also a regular guest lecturer at universities, a member of the board of advisers of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and a member of the steering committee of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security.



  1. Michael Nunez

    November 8, 2022 at 10:20 am

    Very True . China has taken advantage of America’s inability to Rid itself of the Political Party called Democrat’s. This is the very same group that brought Slavery to America . The last 30 years the Dems turned America’s Vote and Taxation into Organized Crime. Ya and China is not only watching they are in Bed with the Democrat’s Who are hell bent on dismantling America’s Armed Forces.

  2. joey

    November 8, 2022 at 10:28 am

    I can’t agree enough with this article.
    Looks like we are sleeping and deluding ourselves, but the wake-up will be rough.

  3. Paddy Manning

    November 8, 2022 at 11:23 am


  4. CRS, DrPH

    November 8, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    Bah. China does not innovate, they only steal technology. Of course, they can threaten Taiwan, but it would not be an easy battle. Anyone want to guess that Taiwan has a nuke stashed away for a rainy day? It would only take one to destroy the PRC.

  5. Nate Hess

    November 8, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    The Democrats are the enemy within. They are heel bent on destroying America.

    Only God can save us

  6. Nathaniel Cooper Hess

    November 8, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Democrats are the enemy within. They are heel-bent on destroying this nation and there is simply NO WAY that a Democrat President and Congress will adequately fund the US Military.

    The writing is on the wall

  7. 403Forbidden

    November 8, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    This article is like a rehash of the ‘missile gap’ & ‘bomber gap’ & ‘submarine gap’ & ‘ICBM gap’ but just with all of them put nicely together here in one presentation.

    US is the BIGGEST military threat to mankind since the collapse of the fascist powers in 1945.

    US military personnel are present in over 130 nations & territories around the world today with a grand total of 700+ bases and facilities.

    US has invaded or attacked over 30 nations post-1945, some of them multiple times.


    US is only the nation to unilaterally store its nukes abroad with upgraded b61 munitions in several european territories plus permanent occupation units along their borders with other nations.

    US on numerous occasions has its ballistic nuclear subs prowling off the coasts of rival nations with nuclear-capable bombers also making regular provocative flights and taking part in war drills and war rehearsals.

    What other nation on Earth can cone close to the astounding ‘achievements’ and commanding superlatives (in the military sense) of USA. Answer is none.

    USA, the truly mega ultra super duper uberpower, the rampaging galactic empire, the modern genghis and unrivalled carpophorus of our era.

  8. Dan Johnson

    November 8, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    You can’t outsource a primary engine of wealth – manufacturing – to China and not expect them to surpass you. We are also declining morally, politically and from an educational perspective.

    And how about not printing trillions in debt to make stealth fighters while Americans have to work two jobs and SELL THEIR BLOOD to make rent.

  9. Kwan

    November 8, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    It is funny to read the articles from the major media talking about China.
    1. if China cannot innovate then it won’t be a challenge to the US since their technologies would always be behind US so no worry
    2. if China is on the verge of collapse because of president Xi then what USA has to do is to wait.
    3. China military spending is still below 2% of their GDP which is very reasonable for such a big country and long coastline and many “friendly neighbors” including Japan, India and Russia.
    4. Yes, maybe their human right is not good, but it is the responsibilities of their own people to fight for their freedom not USA or Europe or Japan

  10. Tomb

    November 8, 2022 at 4:55 pm

    This is very bad news ?

  11. Aboli

    November 8, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    The best weather window for crossing the Taiwan Strait is April. Late march would be ideal for starting operations.

  12. Arash P

    November 8, 2022 at 6:24 pm

    US dominated world order, the rigged, so called rules based order, has got to go.

  13. Cheburator

    November 8, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    1) In the event of a war between China and the United States, Russia will be the first to provide China with access to the entire range of advanced weapons, industrial goods, energy and food.
    2) Korea and Japan – you know that China non-nuclear weapons frazzle for Guam, and given the stock of missiles from China , both military bases and the US fleet in the region are just targets. Those. in the event of war, China has a buffer zone of 4,000 miles, and it is possible to overcome this zone only through a nuclear strike, which will be mutual.
    Your the risks

  14. Jacksonian Libertarian

    November 8, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    It is said that “Generals are always preparing to fight the last war.”. The US Defense dept. epitomizes this saying. Spending trillions buying Industrial Age weapons in Information Age world, is a strategic mistake.

    Never in history have weapons evolved at such an insane rate as they have over the last few decades. Moore’s Law states that computing power doubles every 2 years, and this fact directly affects the evolution of weapons.

    Combat Power rule of thumb: 1 smart weapon = 500 dumb weapons

    The sunk costs of Industrial Age weapons platforms, and the additional costs of trying to make those obsolete weapons relevant, is 100% waste.

    The only good thing happening isn’t being done by America or the West, but rather our enemies (China) stealing and wasting resources making the West’s obsolete weapons.

    The West should immediately mothball/sell 1/2 of it’s obsolete weapons (Tanks, Armored vehicles, cannons, surface warships, non-stealthy combat aircraft, etc.). It should use those resources to build thousands of UAVs, and tens of thousands of smart weapons. US troops should be fighting wars by remote control from undisclosed locations far from the battlefield.

    “It isn’t their job to die for their country, but to make the enemy die for theirs.”

    The mission is to transition to the unmanned battlefield as efficiently as possible.

  15. Steven

    November 8, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    US ain’t going nowhere, deal with it, Arash.

  16. We Never Learn Lessons

    November 8, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Why don’t we just shoot pronouns at them or mis-gender them? That will show them.

  17. Arash P

    November 8, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Hasn’t US already acknowledged Taiwan as being part of China through the one China policy?
    Isn’t “territorial integrity” a Pilar of the so called “rules based order”?
    Isn’t Russia being punished for violating Ukrainian sovereignty even though the majority Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine want to be part of Russia and not Ukraine?
    What right does the US have to arm what is essentially part of China against Chinese government?!

    American warmongering hypocrites don’t even try hiding their hypocrisy.

  18. GhostTomahawk

    November 9, 2022 at 12:55 am

    Want to fight a war with China?

    Stop giving away our war fighting capabilities to Ukraine. The US has literally equipped 2 armies worth of equipment to Ukraine and we estimate only 30% of it has made its way to the battlefield. That means 70% went to…??? Black Market?

    Now that our warehouse are empty the warmongers are banging the drum again to get the US to buy more stuff from our global arms dealers to go fight another proxy war in Asia.

    Sorry. No to all proxy wars. We don’t have to fight China in a war. All we have to do is embargo them and enforce it on US companies.

  19. Doyle

    November 9, 2022 at 8:06 am

    Now that Russia’s conventional capabilities have gone from 300 lb. gorilla to 90 lb. weakling the war party, for lack of a better definition, needs a new awesome bogey man…que in China. Yes they may be formidable on paper but when have all those little princes been in combat let alone having to endure a Soviet style command and control system in a war….virtually never. So our minor decline is something to work on but not the end of us all or even close. Just my two cents.

  20. The Rational Thinker

    November 9, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    It’s not China that has to invade Taiwan by 2027, but us that hopes they do before we can stop them. “Peak China” was an ad campaign disguising the truth of Peak America.

  21. Arash P

    November 9, 2022 at 2:19 pm


    We will see that when US become minority Majority in a decade or so.
    The entire Eurasian landmass, with the exception of a few impotent, deindustrialized western European countries, will be actively fighting against you while different groups will be fighting each other from inside.

    Your cities already look like refugee camps and your central government (including when big boy trump was in charge) seems incapable of fulfilling the basic function of any government that is securing its own borders.

    As climate change and its direct effects worsens, the flow of migrants and refugees to the US will only accelerate.

    US is inching closer and closer to a civil war, neither side is denying that.
    US will tear itself apart worse than what happened to the former Yugoslavia and that’s a good thing for the rest of the world.

  22. NorEastern

    November 9, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    This is obviously another attempt by the US military-industrial complex to pry more funding from Congress to increase our overpowered military. With so many previous examples that should be obvious to all by now author.

  23. mark

    November 10, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Funny. A country that has never stopped invading is talking about how to prevent a country that has never invaded others

  24. David Chang

    November 10, 2022 at 7:21 am

    God bless people in the world.

    America and China Democratic Party cooperate with Communist Party to destroy the world.

    This article simply tell about America Enterprise Institute promoting atheism and worshipping democracy.

    And C.C.P. is not going to occupy Taiwan, they have occupied one-China by promoting socialism, evolution, and liberation Theology.

    So it’s a difficult test for U.S. military to defeat socialism parties and protect U.S.A. Because Democratic parties have lured U.S. Navy to agree Green New Deal for more USN budgets.

    But I hope the Chief of USN resist the temptation and trust God.

    God bless America.

  25. Organic Chemist

    November 10, 2022 at 11:46 am

    Taiwan and mainland are two parts of One China. That is official policy of US and world (exceptions fluctuate, that proves the rule).

    So, which govt is China? Taiwan or Beijing? Used to be Taiwan until ‘70s, with UN veto.
    Now, not.

    If any offshore Chinese island can declare independence, why not Hainan?

    Undereducated, Americans don’t pay attention to history because of their sense of superiority.

    Liberals can be slowly convinced because they still have a functioning brain.

    Conservatives not possible because they have Soviet-level closed minds.

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