The Army may have spent the past 20 years fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan but Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said the service she leads will still play a major role in any future conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Speaking this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ms. Wormuth said China‘s focus on rapidly modernizing its military capabilities will strengthen Beijing’s ability to coerce Taiwan and any other regional rival in territorial disputes.
The U.S. is engaged in a competition with China that has far-reaching consequences. China has the most ships of any nation in the world and the largest air force within the Indo-Pacific region, she said.
“China has missiles that can sink ships and bring down airplanes,” Ms. Wormuth said. “They have missiles that can reach U.S. bases in Japan and Guam, exposing our planes and runways to attack. Not only does China have advanced precision weapons, it has them in large and growing quantities.”
While naval and air operations get the most attention in the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary Wormuth said the Army is poised to carry out a number of crucial functions in the event of a conflict with China. It will act as the “linchpin” service, securing and protecting staging areas and joint operating bases for air and naval forces in the theater.
“We will be prepared to provide integrated air and missile defense, both for fixed sites and using mobile elements,” she said. “We will provide security and quick-reaction forces where needed.”
The Army also will be ready to tap into its deep bench of allies in the region and vast logistics capacity to sustain forces across the Indo-Pacific, she said.
“We will generate intra-theater distribution networks to keep the joint force supplied from dispersed locations and we will maintain munition stockpiles and forward arming and refueling points,” Ms. Wormuth said. The Army, she added, “is uniquely well placed to provide command and control for the joint force.”
But the Army can offer more to the combatant commander than logistics, she said.
The Army says it will begin fielding its new long-range hypersonic weapons and precision strike missiles in 2023, making them able to suppress enemy air defenses and provide counterfire missions against mobile targets.
“The Army is stepping up to the challenge both in terms of how we contribute to the country’s ability to compete with China and our ability to deter coercion and aggression in the region,” Ms. Wormuth said.