US defence bill allocates substantial funds to counter China’s maritime claims

The $886 billion defence package, which contains US$16 billion to thwart China’s sweeping maritime claims, was signed into law by US President Joe Biden on Friday. The bill also permits Australia and the UK to purchase American defence equipment without obtaining licences.

The House passed the 2024 National Defence Authorization Act on December 19, 310-118, while the Senate approved it on December 18, 87-13, respectively. This was accomplished by a compromise that eliminated controversial sections pertaining to abortion and transgender rights as well as additional financing for Ukraine.

Last Thursday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York referred to the agreement as “precisely the kind of bipartisan cooperation the American people want from Congress.”

Parts of the deal “raise concerns,” but Biden said on Friday that he was “pleased to support the critical objectives” of the law.

In order to support service troops, their spouses, and families, the measure “provides the critical authorities we need to build the military required to deter future conflicts,” according to Biden.

Deterrence in the Maritime Domain

The Pacific Deterrence Initiative is allocated $14.7 billion in the bill, far more than the $9.1 billion that the Pentagon had asked for. Defence authorities claim that the initiative will help strengthen American defences in Guam and Hawaii, as well as improve “deterrence” measures against China.

Expert in naval operations and senior scholar at the Hudson Institute Bryan Clark predicted that the “significant increase” in funding would benefit U.S. and NATO forces in the Indo-Pacific by “improving their resilience and capability.”

“I anticipate that the enhanced PDI funding permitted by the NDAA will concentrate on safeguarding Guam, enhancing networking and data integration for American forces operating in the Indo-Pacific, and quickening the process of positioning American ground forces in the area,” stated Clark.

The Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement that the additional $1.3 billion is designated specifically for the Indo-Pacific Campaigning Initiative, which will finance “increased frequency and scale of exercises, freedom of navigation operations, and partner engagements” as China intensifies its claims to sovereignty.

The 2024 measure also raises the basic allowance for troops and housing subsidies, authorizing the largest pay increase for military members in 20 years—a 5.2 percent increase overall.

US defence bill allocates substantial funds to counter China's maritime claims

AUKUS

However, not just American military installations and troops in the Indo-Pacific region will see significant increases in budget the next year.

The 2024 law also authorizes the transfer of Australia nuclear-powered submarines and removes the requirement for British and Australian businesses to obtain licences in order to purchase American defence technologies.

The AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States has two sections known as “Pillar 1” and “Pillar 2.” These measures have been contentious, with some Republicans in Congress challenging Pillar 1 and some Democrats opposing Pillar 2.

Republicans have voiced worries regarding shipyards’ capacity to provide Australia with submarines by the 2030s, given the significant backlog of construction that has left the U.S. Navy waiting for orders.

On the other hand, Democrats expressed concern that removing the requirement for licences for Australian corporations could provide a means for Chinese espionage to obtain high-value U.S. technology.

Even though the significant licencing exemptions are still dependent on Australia and the UK implementing “comparable” export restrictions, the provisions ultimately received bipartisan support.

The adoption of both AUKUS pillars will help U.S. attempts to fight the Chinese Communist Party’s maritime claims, according to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat and ranking member of his party on the House Select Committee on China.

“We are taking an important step in strengthening key U.S. alliances and working to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of CCP aggression,” he said, adding that the sale of up to three Virginia-class submarines to Australia had been authorised. Additionally, the process of sharing advanced technologies between our countries had been made simpler.

Following the adoption of AUKUS, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are “on the precipice of historic reform that will transform our ability to effectively deter, innovate, and operate together,” according to Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles.

If the security pact is successful, Australia’s ambassador to Washington, Kevin Rudd, stated earlier this year that he envisions a “seamless” defence sector throughout the AUKUS member states in the ensuing decades.

Additional Actions

Along with funding the Biden administration’s new “Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative,” which also intends to dissuade China from asserting its extensive maritime sovereignty claims, the bill also establishes a new programme to train and counsel Taiwan’s military.

Will provide American partners throughout Asia and the Pacific “with high-grade commercial satellite imagery that allows them to have much more visibility into their littorals,” according to a statement made earlier this month by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner.

The head of the House Select Committee on China, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, said the bill was appropriately focused on the major challenges the American military is currently confronting.

After the bill cleared the House, Gallagher stated, “We are in the window of maximum danger when it comes to a conflict with China over Taiwan.” “Our top priority in Congress must be ensuring that our military has the means to prevent and, if necessary, win such a confl

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