Senate Panel Bill Approves $6 Billion Initiative to Counter China, Derails FCC on L-Band Wireless

A new $6.9 billion defense initiative to counter China has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with a boost to hypersonic missile defense, and an attempt to derail the FCC’s controversial approval of the L-band spectrum for 5G wireless.

The Senate panel announced on June 11 that they had agreed on their version of the annual National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2021.

Included is the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which was not included in the White House’s budget request. The initiative directly funnels money into the commands that run the day to day operations of a theater, as opposed to through the services that train and equip the military.

A similar scheme, worth around $3 billion to $4 billion per year, took place in Europe after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, when politicians were keen to send a message to President Vladamir Putin and his “little green men.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA picks up the demands of the National Defense Strategy to pivot the military to great power competition with Russia and China.

“After years of sustained conflict, underfunding, and budgetary uncertainty, Congress focused on rebuilding the military in the past two NDAAs,” said a statement (pdf) by the panel. “Progress has been made, but the work is not yet done.”

The full text of the bill is not available.

According to the bill summary, among other initiatives, it “provides additional funding for missile defense priorities, including the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, components for an eight Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, and additional SM-3IIA interceptors.”

The bill also tries to block the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) decision to allow Ligado to use the L-band of the electromagnetic spectrum for the next-generation wireless tech—a potential answer to Huawei’s 5G.

That decision has been criticized by the Department of Defense and various other agencies as endangering the GPS bandwidths used by the military.

The Senate panel version of the NDAA blocks the use of DoD funds to comply with the FCC order until an estimate is given of the costs of fixing any accompanying interference to the military GPS. It also directs DoD to order a technical review from the  National Academies of Science and Engineering.

Pacific Deterrence Initiative Pushes Back the Chinese Communist Party

The idea of a Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) has been floated for two or three years in Congress but gained little momentum until recently. Both the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee have already indicated support for such an initiative.

According to the summary of the bill, the NDAA for FY21 establishes the PDI, “to send a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is deeply committed to defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

The bill authorizes $1.4 billion for PDI in FY21, and $5.5 billion for FY22.

“The current U.S. National Defense Strategy prioritizes the U.S. abilities to counter Chinese aggression, in particular throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Timothy Walton, a defense analyst at the Hudson Institute, previously told The Epoch Times. “However, there have been a number of questions raised as to how much the Department of Defense is reprioritizing its funding to focus on operations in the Indo-Pacific.”

“In contrast, over the past number of years, there have been special initiatives established to fund deterrence and reassurance activities in the European command theater of operations while a similar initiative hasn’t been established in the Pacific. ”

In funneling money through this route of a deterrence initiative, the proposals from Congress would shift the balance in the bureaucratic tussle between the military commands and the services over strategic direction and influence.

Congress pushed for greater direct insight from the Indo-Pacific commanders in 2019, mandating a report of recommendations published in March that then formed the basis for the deterrence initiatives.