China will attack the American homeland if “a major war” erupts over Taiwan or elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. Army’s top civilian expects.
“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 on pipelines,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute. “They are going to go after the will of the United States public. They’re going to try to erode support for a conflict.” China’s People’s Liberation Army forces are not yet prepared to launch an invasion of Taiwan, according to U.S. intelligence and military officials. Yet the “historical trajectory” of their recent military modernization campaign requires U.S. forces to speed up their preparations to deter such an attack, according to the region’s top Army officer.
“The payload of exercises in pathways is really at its zenith here in ’23,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, referring to an array of U.S. military exercises in the Indo-Pacific. “This is an important year to get in position [and] create enduring advantage … 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.”
Flynn and Wormuth touted the importance of the U.S. Army in the competition with China, an argument advanced at least in part to urge lawmakers not to forget about the Army in the upcoming spending process. Fiscal fights of the last decade often have forced the federal government to operate a funding mechanism known as a “continuing resolution,” which authorizes federal officials to spend money according to the plans set by previous budgets — a process that, according to Wormuth, has constrained the military’s ability to prepare for the risk of a clash with China.
“It is hard for us to compete effectively and do everything we need to do vis-a-vis the PRC, if, for six months of the year, we, for example, can’t have any new starts for programs,” she said.
“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.”
One major new weapons system — long-range hypersonic missiles — will come online in the coming months, the Army secretary added.