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Sept. 14, 2023
Notes from the Pentagon

Air Force pressed to retool for China war

By Bill Gertz
The Air Force is not moving fast enough to prepare for war with China, which is expanding its forces for military aggression in the Asia Pacific region, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall warned in a recent message to the troops.

“We must be ready for a fight unlike anything all of us serving today have ever seen, and that requires both unity of effort and change,” Mr. Kendall said in a Sept. 5 memo to airmen and Space Force guardians.

The secretary said it has been his belief for over a decade that Beijing is “intent on fielding a force that can conduct aggression in the western Pacific and prevail even if the United States intervenes.”

“While China has focused on creating the regional conventional forces it believes it needs, China is also dramatically expanding its nuclear force and military space capabilities. We cannot sustain deterrence by standing still,” he stated.

A copy of the memo was obtained by Inside the Ring.

Mr. Kendall said the Air Force and Space Force are key elements in deterring China. Steps are being taken to boost conventional weaponry, he said.

“However, we need to do more,” he said. “It has become clear to the entire senior leadership team that we are not optimized for great-power competition.”

U.S. nuclear deterrence is strained by China’s planned deployment of an estimated 320 ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, each armed with at least three warheads.

The Pentagon is investing in a major modernization of its nuclear forces that includes new missiles, submarines and bombers. But the modernization will take longer than China’s strategic advances, raising concerns among military planners that the U.S. will face Chinese nuclear coercion — the threat of American cities being bombed should U.S. and allied forces intervene in a Taiwan conflict.

As a result, the Air Force is launching a major initiative in the next several months to better prepare for the military challenges posed by China, Mr. Kendall wrote. The effort, addressing how the service is organized, trained and equipped, “will not be easy” because of anticipated bureaucratic resistance from within the service, he said.

The program will conclude by January 2024 and be implemented after that.

Some steps have already been taken, “but we must move faster and more comprehensively,” Mr. Kendall said, noting that needed changes must be identified and accelerated.

Mr. Kendall then asked all service members to consider several questions.

“If asked to go to war today against a peer competitor, are we as ready as we could be? What can we change in each of our units and organizations to be more ready?” he said.

The questions are not academic.

“Deterrence is the goal, but deterrence rests firmly on our readiness and ability to win,” he said. “No one wants a great-power conflict, and no one can predict when one might occur, but come it may, and we must be as ready as we can be — now, tomorrow and every day.”

Mr. Kendall underscored many of the points outlined in the memo in a speech Monday. The address highlighted two key developments by the People’s Liberation Army, including the creation of a Chinese rocket force designed “to attack America’s high-value assets, aircraft carriers, forward airfields and key [command and control] and logistics nodes.”

The second development is the development of the Chinese army’s Strategic Support Force, which will seek to achieve “information dominance” in space and cyber warfare.

A key flashpoint is Taiwan, Mr. Kendall said in the speech, noting that the current period of an anticipated Chinese attack on the island could be like the monthslong run-up to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“If our power projection capability and capacity are not adequate to deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan or elsewhere, war could occur,” he said. “If it does, and we cannot prevail, the results could cast a long shadow.”

Mr. Kendall said despite the threat it poses, China will “fail” in a war because Chinese forces lack the initiative, professionalism and dedication of U.S. troops.

Air Force spokeswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CIA accused of covering up COVID lab origin
Six CIA analysts agreed to skew intelligence assessments on the origin of the COVID-19 virus to avoid concluding that the virus originated at a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, according to an agency whistleblower who alerted Congress to the incident.

The intelligence officer, described in a letter Tuesday to CIA Director William Burns as a “multi-decade, senior-level” current official, said six of the experts assigned to a “COVID Discovery Team” reached the conclusion that virus likely came from the Wuhan lab and was not transmitted naturally from an unidentified animal host.

A seventh officer, who led the team, was the sole analyst who believed the virus emerged naturally through “zoonosis.”

“The whistleblower further contends that to come to the eventual public determination of uncertainty, the other six members were given a significant monetary incentive to change their position,” Republican Reps. Brad Wenstrup and Mike Turner stated in the letter to Mr. Burns.

Mr. Wenstrup is chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic, and Mr. Turner is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Allegations of CIA analytical irregularities regarding the COVID origin hunt are the second example of intelligence politicization to come to light.

As reported by Inside the Ring on Aug. 31, analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s National Center for Medical Intelligence also concluded that the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 was bioengineered at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was engaged in research that manipulated animal viruses to make them more infectious to humans.

The findings were included in an unclassified research paper published in 2020 by NCMI experts Robert Greg Cutlip and Navy Cmdr. Jean-Paul Chretien.

Those findings, however, were reportedly covered up in the final intelligence synthesis ordered by President Biden.

U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the pandemic origin, with most still leaning toward the view that the virus originated from an animal infected by the virus from a bat, although no animal containing the virus has been discovered.

Other agencies, including the FBI and Energy Department, believe it is more likely the virus came from the Wuhan lab.

Mr. Wenstrup and Mr. Turner asked the CIA in their letter to provide all documents and communications related to the virus origin used by the COVID Discovery Team. Their letter also noted that Congress has subpoena power.

“Should the required information not be produced in an expeditious and satisfactory manner, you should expect the committee, or committees, to use its additional tools and authorities to satisfy our legislative and oversight requirements,” they said.

The CIA denied the allegations.

“We do not pay analysts to reach specific conclusions,” CIA spokeswoman Tammy Kupperman said in a statement. “We take these allegations extremely seriously, and we have and will continue to cooperate with our congressional oversight committees.”

A CIA official declined to comment when asked if the CIA inspector general is investigating the matter.

Mr. Biden ordered a three-month investigation of the virus’s origin, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that the virus was genetically engineered and likely emerged naturally. The public version of the report, however, made no mention of genomic analysis or whether the virus could have been the result of dangerous lab work in China.

An ODNI spokeswoman said the National Intelligence Council, which led the analytical work, complied with all intelligence community standards, “including objectivity.”

China ramps up coastal weapons
China is deploying more air power in coastal areas opposite Taiwan — another sign of possible preparation for a future attack on the democratic-ruled island, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said in its latest biennial report made public this week.

The report disclosed that China is expanding airfields along the coastline for its eastern and southern commands, complete with new jet fighters and drones that are now permanently stationed at the bases. The expansion includes fighter jets, bombers, airborne early warning platforms, cargo planes, aerial tankers and drones.

Satellite photos in the report revealed the airfield expansion at bases near Longtian, Huian and Zhangzhou.

The buildup includes Chinese HQ air and missile defense batteries and Russian-made S-300 and S-400 missile batteries at critical locations.

“Geographically, Taiwan is a linchpin to contain the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) eastward maritime power expansion to the Pacific,” the report warns. “Politically, Taiwan is at the frontline of democracy confronting authoritarianism.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a lesson that “a totalitarian regime can ignore international rules and kick off invasion for the sake of its own national interests or political assertions,” the report’s authors write. Taiwan plans to prevent war by dissuading the enemy to launch an attack by increasing the costs of doing so, the report said.

China has been altering a fragile status quo across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait through military intimidation and intrusion across an unofficial dividing line in the waterway.

Taiwan is building up its forces and defenses in response.

“Using ‘eluding its strength and exploiting its weakness’ asymmetric approach, [Taiwan forces] will monitor obvious indicators of enemy invasion and preemptively strike its mobilizing invasion forces and centers of gravity to disrupt its operational tempo and delay its actions,” the report said.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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