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Iran Press TV

US Senate calls for new F-35 hub, strategic arms buildup in Pacific to deter China

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 14 June 2020 2:21 AM

US Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a $740 billion military budget that partially calls for spending nearly $7 billion over two years to launch an aggressive move towards deterring China and shoring up American military buildup in the Pacific region.

The budget further calls for strategic deployments of weapons and platforms to keep China and other perceived threats, such as Russia, at bay, according to a Friday report by Military.com news outlet.

The Pacific Deterrence Initiative, approved as part of the Senate version of the 2021 defense budget and policy bill, also includes $1.4 billion for next year and plans $5.5 billion for fiscal 2022 to augment missile defense, fund new efforts in support of regional allies, and forward-posture more troops in the region.

"The best way to protect US security and prosperity in Asia is to maintain a credible balance of military power but, after years of underfunding, America's ability to do so is at risk," said a summary of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Senate-approved NDAA "encourages" the US Air Force to establish a new F-35A Joint Strike Fighter operating location in the Indo-Pacific region "quickly to posture ready forces in our priority arena," added the summary of the bill.

Elements of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative also include improving active and passive missile-defense systems for bases and operating locations in the region; building up the military's system of prepositioned stockpiles, including vehicles, weapons and fuel; and starting to transition the military's operating model in the Pacific from large and difficult-to-defend bases to "dispersed, resilient, and adaptive basing."

Deploying Israeli-made Iron Dome weapons system

The bill further requires the secretary of the Army to draft and present a plan to station or deploy its two batteries of interim cruise missile defense capability into operational theaters. This refers to the Israeli-built Iron Dome weapons system that was purchased by the US Army in 2019 to fill what was considered as an urgent capability gap. The Army is due to take delivery of the first of two Iron Dome batteries in December.

Moreover, the NDAA would require the chief of naval operations and the head of US European Command (EUCOM) to collaborate on a "detailed plan" to base two additional guided-missile destroyers in Rota, Spain -- a hub that has been used as a launch pad for quick-response forces to Africa and the surrounding region.

EUCOM commander, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, asked for two additional destroyers in Rota to execute command-and-control in light of increased Russian undersea activity in the region during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February.

The Senate bill, which totals $740.5 billion, must still be reconciled with an identical bill that is to be passed by the US House of Representatives. The House Armed Services Committee plans to mark up its version of the bill later this month.

Bill Includes pay raise, controversial changes

The Senate version of the NDAA for fiscal 2021 also includes a 3-percent pay raise for the military and controversial provisions banning the use of troops against peaceful protesters and calling for renaming military bases honoring racist Confederate leaders.

The differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA will then have to be hashed out in a House-Senate conference committee before going to Trump for approval against a deadline of October 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

War budget for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere

The Senate committee's proposal for the so-called "war budget," or Overseas Contingency Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, is $69 billion within the overall $740.5 billion and about the same as proposed by the Defense Department.

On Afghanistan, the Senate committee's bill includes "a sense of the Senate expressing concerns about the risks of a abrupt withdrawal of US military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel from Afghanistan and the need to ensure such decisions are conditions-based."

Focus on countering Russia, China

In terms of strategy, the committee's summary further stated that the goal of the spending proposal is to accomplish the objectives of the National Defense Strategy aimed at countering Russia and China -- with particular emphasis this year on China.

As happens every year, the bill would prohibit the transfer or release of any of the remaining 40 foreign captives at the US military prison and torture facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and also prohibit their transfer or release to Libya, Somalia, Syria or Yemen.

Additionally, the bill would prohibit any attempt to close or abandon the Guantanamo military base or give up control of the base to Cuba.

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