U.S. Military Power in the Pacific: New Challenges, New Opportunities
May 16th, 2018 6:00PM -7:30PM
On May 16th, the World Affairs Council welcomed Lt. General (ret.) Stephen Lanza, who served as commanding general, I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord until he retired last year.
Lt. General Lanza covered a range of topics ranging from Chinese investment and modernization, to threats from the North Korean Regime.
Lt. General Lanza began by breaking down what he believed are the most critical threats in the pacific region:
- Terrorism – specifically the resurgent Islamic fundamentalism in the Philippines
- Competition for control of the Arctic Circle.
- Resurgence of the Russian presence in Asia.
- Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, be it biological, nuclear or chemical weapons.
- China’s problematic behavior in the South China Sea, which he broke down into 4 parts:
- Weaponized reefs impeding freedom of navigation.
- China shut down aircraft identification zone in that airspace.
- Going around S. China Sea costs an incredible amount of time and resources.
- There are many claimants in the South China Sea, creating regional friction.
The Chinese military is modernizing and becoming much more of a professional military. He asserts these steps are much more conducive for Chinese governance. The Peoples Liberation Army is starting to think like a global power in terms of learning from the U.S. joint forces. Joint operations are significant for a modern and professional military. There is more civilian oversight in the military, professionalization, and getting rid of corruption throughout. Lt. General Lanza pointed out, "One of their biggest questions the Chinese ask when they visit the U.S., is how does the U.S. operate command and control? How do you do things independently?"
On the topic of Chinese investment, Lt. General Lanza asserts that when they invest in a country, they are investing in the Chinese in the country. Dealing with china requires a multilateral regional engagement strategy, much like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), because the Chinese do very well in terms of bilateral agreements, but suffer in achieving success multilaterally.
North Korea’s only goal is survival of the regime. There is a desire from North Korea to split the relationship between South Korea and the United States, as well as a drive to be viewed by the world as a nuclear power. In the opinion of the Lt. General, U.S. forces should remain stationed in South Korea, as it would be detrimental to U.S. interests if they were to leave. With 28,000 U.S. troops in the region, The U.S. military presence is wanted by its allies, including China. The Chinese’s only reservations of U.S. troop presence is potential overreach, for example the THAAD systems put in place on the peninsula. North Korea's primary goal is stability, they don’t want the regime to fail.
As debate goes on about the need for an ever expanding military budget in the U.S., Lt. General Lanza breaks down his reasoning for the budget as such:
55% of the budget for the military goes to readiness. The three categories being personnel, equipment, and modernization. He asserts that modernization is hard because we’ve been deployed too much, but there is a modernization command being developed and it will connect everyone, including industry. More specifically, Lt. General Lanza believes that the U.S. should leverage its capabilities from all American sectors, such as Silicon Valley, and streamline acquisition.