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Posted by Randy | September 02, 2015

70 years ago on this day, Japan surrendered to the United States and its allies, marking an end to the cataclysm that claimed some 30 million lives across Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Today, we pause to remember the lives lost, the courage and heroism displayed, and the sacrifices made.

In remembrance of this somber anniversary, I joined Rep Mark Takai in sharing a few reflections with the Honolulu Star Advertiser on how and why the War in the Pacific happened, and the worrisome parallels visible in the Asia-Pacific region today. You can read below, and share your thoughts in response on my Facebook page, here.

Reflections on war and peace in the Pacific
Honolulu Star Advertiser 
By U.S. Reps. J. Randy Forbes and Mark Takai
Sunday, Aug 30, 2015

On Sept. 2, 2015, we will gather with veterans, civilians, military dignitaries and our colleagues from Congress to commemorate the end of the Second World War in the Pacific.

The ceremony being held aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii will mark the 70th anniversary of the date on which Japan surrendered to the United States and its allies, bringing to an end a cataclysm that claimed some 30 million lives across Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

The Second World War is a somber subject with a complex legacy, but the end of that terrible conflict is something that everyone -- not just the victorious powers -- should commemorate.

The end of the War in the Pacific was not just a reprieve for the millions of men, women, and children caught up in the conflict. It was also a transformational moment for the Asia-Pacific region.

It did not bring universal peace or freedom, but it did usher in a new and enduring international order. That order, led and defended by the United States and its partners, has enabled many nations in Asia to emerge or reemerge in the decades since 1945 as increasingly free and prosperous states in a relatively peaceful region. Japan -- our former adversary -- now stands as a close U.S. ally and a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

It is fitting, therefore, that we should commemorate the end of the War in the Pacific. But we should also remember how and why that terrible conflict began. Most Americans think of the Pacific War as a 4-year contest that started on Dec. 7, 1941, but Imperial Japan aggressed against its neighbors long before Pearl Harbor.

As in Europe, the road to war in Asia passed what the late historian Mark Peattie called "numerous forks pointing the way toward ... aggression or accommodation, action or inaction." Unfortunately, the United States and the other great powers did too little until it was too late, and, as Peattie tells us, "the failure of the international community to take effective action to prevent aggression and to limit the use of force in a regional conflict ultimately paved the road to a larger war." That lesson was brought home for Americans right where the Missouri is now anchored.

Seven decades later, it is important to remember how and why the War in the Pacific happened and reflect on how it might have been prevented. History does not repeat itself, as the saying goes, but it does rhyme; and worrisome parallels are visible in the Asia-Pacific region today.

Nationalism is on the rise once again, and in China we now see another rising Asian nation rapidly amassing economic and military power and starting to flex its growing muscles. Watching these events unfold, as Princeton's Aaron Friedberg recently observed, "it has become increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that Beijing's ultimate aim is to displace the United States and resume its traditional position as the preponderant power in Asia."

As the outcome of the war in the Pacific reminds us, the United States and its allies are resilient, although often slow to react. But we should not assume that the post-war international order that we established in the region will endure without continuous American leadership and efforts to shore it up.

The United States should welcome the "peaceful rise of China," but it must also make clear through words and deeds that the use of force and coercion by any country in the Asia-Pacific region will be strongly and resolutely opposed. Skillful diplomacy will be needed to convey our positions, but we must also maintain a balance of hard power that will not allow China to dominate the region or achieve its aims with force and coercion.

As we gather to commemorate the end of one conflict in the Pacific, we should reaffirm our pledge to deter and prevent the outbreak of another. 
Posted by Randy | July 31, 2015

For too long, the United States has allowed China to dictate the words and phrases we use to describe our relations with Beijing. Whether it is our relationship with long-standing partners like Taiwan, a description of China’s illegitimate reclamation activities in the South China Sea, or very real concerns about Chinese human rights abuses, Washington has hoped that staying silent or using China’s preferred terminology would encourage Beijing to behave constructively. I recently wrote an Op-Ed in National Review Online about how this strategy has clearly failed and how it is time to reevaluate how the United States talks about China.

​It’s Time to Rethink How We Talk about China
National Review
​By Congressman J. Randy Forbes
July 30, 2015

A mid the spin and obfuscation of political Washington, it is easy to forget that words matter and have real consequences for U.S. foreign policy. Yet in its public statements on the relationship most likely to define global politics in the 21st century — America’s relationship with China — the U.S. government has long seemed like a detached observer. 

Years ago, prominent China watcher James Mann spoke of the “lexicon” that defines the Sino–American relationship. Disturbingly, that lexicon has far too often featured a “Made in China” label, as U.S. policymakers eagerly embrace Chinese exports while ignoring Beijing’s appropriation of language to serve its own purposes at home, in Asia, and around the world. 

The words American leaders use to describe issues of contention with China should, first and foremost, reflect U.S. interests and values. China’s unprecedented reclamation activities in the South China Sea, totaling roughly 2,000 acres in recent years, fly in the face of international law and norms, and mock the United States’ firm belief that territorial disputes should be peaceably resolved. Yet we repeatedly hear that China is constructing new “islands,” a word Beijing itself uses to describe what should more appropriately be called “man-made features.” This question of semantics has real-world implications. An “artificial feature” is a unilateral land grab. An “island” connotes the internationally accepted twelve nautical miles of territorial waters, along with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of another 200 nautical miles. Blithely accepting China’s preferred language gives unwarranted legitimacy to Beijing’s destabilizing behavior. 

Read the full article here.

Posted by Randy | July 24, 2015

Five years after the Administration announced a greater focus on the Asia-Pacific region, the United States still lacks a strategy for confronting China's continuing military and diplomatic  expansion. This week I gave a talk at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on how to respond to China's construction of nearly 2,000 acres of artificial "islands" in the South China Sea, where I discussed the importance of formulating, articulating and implementing a clear strategy for the United States in Asia. You might be interested in this article in Breaking Defense summarizing my speech.

Forbes: White House Has No China Strategy; Here’s Mine
Breaking Defense
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
July 24, 2015 at 1:41 PM

What’s the strategy for coping with what everyone on Capitol Hill and inside the Obama administration agrees is an increasingly assertive China? The White House can’t answer, Rep. Randy Forbes says, “because they don’t have it.” So, it’s fair to ask: what is Forbes’s strategy, then?

The House seapower chairman’s outline for a “winning strategy” boils down to five principles, he told me in an interview:
  1. Have a clear objective: a peaceful and prosperous Pacific where China follows the rule of law and the US works closely with its partners.
  2. Speak truth to Chinese power: Be willing to offend Beijing with frank statements, especially on issues like human rights and Taiwan.
  3. Punish Chinese provocations, for example by un-inviting them from international wargames like RIMPAC if they continue building artificial “islands.”
  4. Strengthen our military presence in the Pacific, especially (but not onlynaval forces.
  5. Communicate our strategy — to the American people so they buy in, to our allies so they’re reassured, and to the Chinese so they’re deterred.
  6. “One of the cornerstones of any strategy is the ability to articulate that strategy,” Forbes told me. “The administration will tell you have they have a strategy, but ask them in any hearing, ask them in any place, to put it on the record… They will not tell you, because they don’t have it.”

“We’ve been trying to encourage them to have an East Asia strategy review,” Forbes added. “We haven’t had one since the ’90s… They’ve refused to do one since they’ve been in office.”

Read the rest of the article here.

I recently  wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on the senseless humiliations the United States places on its longstanding partner Taiwan, all to avoid antagonizing China. Yet China's behavior in the region has only become more opposed to U.S. national interests. See my article here.

Posted by Randy | July 02, 2015
On Tuesday, June 30th, the U.S. State Department announced that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have been extended until July 7th. This Tuesday marked what had previously been the final deadline for reaching a long-term solution to Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear capability.

The goal of the negotiations between the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, and Russia (collectively known as the P5+1), and Iran is to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from currently imposed economic sanctions.  Iranian negotiators, however, have pushed back strongly over the level of access the international community would have into any facility in Iran suspected of non-commercial nuclear activity, and there remain difficulties resolving fundamental differences. Previously, a four-month extension to the first of two original agreement deadlines was declared on July 18, 2014, followed by another seven-month extension, which was enacted when the November 24, 2014 deadline was missed and the yearlong effort to reach a deal failed to come to fruition.

This new deadline is intended to allow for a final deal to be submitted to the U.S. Congress before July 9th, giving Congress 30 days to review the agreement and vote over whether or not it will lift Congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran. If, however, the deal is submitted after the July 9th deadline, Congress would have an additional 30 days to review the agreement.

Opponents of the negotiations continue to be concerned that the agreement is too lenient and that Iran, a U.S. designated state-sponsor of terrorism and the developer of a robust ballistic missile capability, cannot be trusted to uphold their end of the agreement. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has stated he is fearful of what might come out of continued talks because he believes that Iran has the “upper hand” in negotiations. The Administration, however, has declared the deal to be a national security priority.

Question of the Week: Are you concerned that the Administration’s continued nuclear negotiations with Iran put the U.S. in a position of weakness?

(  ) Yes.
(  ) No.
(  ) I don’t know.
(  ) Other.

Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | June 19, 2015

The President has threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill, which provides critical resources for our men and women in uniform, unless Congress increases funding for domestic agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This threat comes even as 450 additional troops have been sent to Iraq to oppose ISIS. 

I think it is simply unconscionable to play politics with our national security in order to promote the Administration’s political agenda. See my recent questioning of Defense Secretary Ash Carter on this subject here or by clicking on the photo below.

Posted by Randy | June 18, 2015

Over this past weekend, the Obama Administration quietly released six more terrorists from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sending them to the country of Oman. This is just the latest step in the President’s dangerous and short-sighted plan to close down GITMO – a plan that puts politics above national security and personal priorities above the interests of the American people.

Who were the six terrorists that were released this weekend? Well, let’s take a look:

  • Emad Abdullah Hassan, who is suspected of being one of many bodyguards to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and of being part of a group planning to attack NATO and American troops after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Idris Ahmad 'Abd Al Qadir Idris and Jalal Salam Awad Awad, both alleged bodyguards to bin Laden.
  • Sharaf Ahmad Muhammad Mas'ud, whom the U.S. said fought American soldiers at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, before his capture in Pakistan.
  • Saa'd Nasser Moqbil Al Azani, a religious teacher whom the U.S. believes had ties to bin Laden's religious adviser; and
  • Muhammad Ali Salem Al Zarnuki, who allegedly arrived in Afghanistan as early as 1998 to fight and support the Taliban.

Given former GITMO detainees’ propensity for returning to the battlefield against Americans, I believe their release presents a grave national security concern. Yet, according to recent reports, the Administration intends to move forward with transferring up to 10 detainees from the Guantanamo detention center this month alone, which means an additional four prisoners could be turned loose within the next two weeks. This is what Administration officials are reported to be saying:

  • “We are working feverishly to transfer each of the 51 detainees [at Gitmo] currently approved for transfer,” said one official.
  • “We are taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility,” said another.
 If only the President was this zeroed in on addressing the extended wait times and delays that our veterans face at the VA. If only the Administration was “working feverishly” and “taking all possible steps” to provide our heroes with the care they deserve and have earned.

Terrorists at GITMO? Put them on a wait list. The men and women who have sacrificed and served this nation? That is who our government should be “working feverishly” to care for and support.

Defending our defenders has long been one of my top priorities in Congress. Click here to read about some recent bills I supported that put our troops before politics, and ensure their best interests are looked after.
Posted by Randy | May 13, 2015
A quick heads up: There are currently two provisions in this year’s defense policy bill that deal with immigration. One of them urges the Secretary of Defense to review allowing DACA recipients (young illegal immigrants) to serve in the armed forces, while the other calls on the Pentagon to analyze how DACA recipients could expand the number of potential recruits.

Both of these provisions were offered as amendments by Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee.  I voted against both during the Committee markup; however, they narrowly passed and were included in the defense policy bill.

That’s why I am supporting new amendments that will strip these provisions from the final defense policy bill
. Protecting and providing for our servicemembers and the United States’ military readiness should not be derailed by partisan agendas – on either side of the aisle – over other policy issues.
Posted by Randy | April 23, 2015
Just a quick note – wanted to let you know I recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Carter, requesting that he publicly outline his plan to make the Department of Defense auditable by 2017, and submit audit results to Congress by 2019 (as required by the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan).

Action needs to be taken. Not only because auditing the DOD will help ensure taxpayer dollars are used in the most efficient, effective means possible, but also because it will create an even stronger national defense, allowing us to better ensure the agency is meeting its core goal of protecting our national security.

Posted by Randy | April 22, 2015

Over the last few weeks, we have heard story after story about China’s provocative actions in the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas.  Many of these actions are being taken by China’s Coast Guard, which now outnumbers the coast guards of all of China’s neighbors combined.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing recently, I asked Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, what strategies, concepts, forces, and capabilities we need to counter aggression by China’s paramilitary forces.  While I am fully committed to maintaining U.S. superiority at the “high end” of the conflict spectrum, I believe it is critically important that we be able to counter and deter this sort of “gray zone” aggression as well.

You can watch my question and ADM Locklear’s response here, or by clicking the image below.

Posted by Randy | April 01, 2015

The aircraft carrier remains the most visible and effective instrument of U.S. military power. Building a mixed and technologically-advanced Carrier Air Wing, including unmanned aircraft, is essential to preserving the carrier’s dominance in the decades ahead. I recently authored an Op-Ed in Defense News laying out my vision for unmanned carrier aviation.

Commentary: Where Is Unmanned Carrier Aviation Heading?
Defense News
By Congressman Randy Forbes
March 31, 2015 

"What's going on with the Pentagon's longest-running drama, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program?" Bill Sweetman recently asked in Aviation Week. In the absence of any updates from the Pentagon, it's a question that is on the minds of many interested parties.

Until last year, the Navy's efforts to add an unmanned aircraft to the carrier air wing appeared to be on track and close to delivering impressive results. And then, just when it seemed a brave new world of unmanned carrier aviation was dawning, Congress got involved.

Or so it might seem. Last December, Congress passed a National Defense Authorization Act that constrained the Navy's use of funding for the UCLASS program in fiscal year 2015. In its markup, my subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces mandated that the secretary of defense review the requirements guiding the UCLASS program and report back to Congress before awarding any contracts for the "air vehicle segment" of the program, effectively putting aircraft development on hold.

Some commentators have alleged that this constituted just one of several instances of "politics, mainly in the form of ill-conceived spending constraints … making it harder for the joint force to tap the full potential" of unmanned technology. In the case of UCLASS, however, I strongly believe that the constraints imposed by Congress will help the joint force truly exploit the full potential of unmanned carrier aircraft.

I am convinced that where carrier aviation is concerned, unmanned aviation's greatest promise lies in its potential to fill the carrier air wing's most glaring capability gap: its lack of a sufficiently long-range penetrating strike capability. Although the carrier and its air wing are among the most versatile and effective military tools available to US commanders today, their value in the decades ahead will be determined in large part by how the carrier air wing evolves to meet anti-access challenges arising in the Western Pacific and around the world.

In order for the carrier to meet its full potential as a power-projection instrument, its air wing must include aircraft that can launch and recover from beyond the reach of prospective adversaries' sea-denial capabilities and penetrate sophisticated air defenses with a load of sensors and weapons. To do so, these aircraft will need a greater combat radius than key threats they face and current manned carrier fighters can achieve; air refueling capability; all-aspect, broadband stealth; and a sizable internal payload.

Armed with such an aircraft, the carrier and its air wing would be capable of meeting the full spectrum of foreseeable operational challenges.

As noted above, the Navy appeared for a while to be on track to develop such an aircraft. Building on joint research and development efforts, the sea service developed an Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft, the X-47B, that made unmanned aviation history in May 2013 by conducting the first unmanned catapult launch and arrested recovery aboard a carrier at sea. In April, the UCAS-D is poised to achieve another aviation milestone by conducting the first autonomous midair refueling from a manned tanker.

Although only a prototype, UCAS-D seemed like a steppingstone to the long-range penetrating strike capability envisioned above. All seemed well until the Navy circulated a draft request for proposals for a follow-on UCLASS aircraft in 2013, indicating that the Navy had decided to go in a different direction. Instead of a combat-capable evolution of the UCAS-D, the Navy was now expressing interest in a semi-stealthy and only lightly armed aircraft that could stay aloft for roughly 14 hours and conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike missions.

I recognize that a high-endurance ISR capability is needed by the carrier air wing, and that there is also a need for the air wing to refuel more efficiently. I also recognize that unmanned vehicles have the potential to effectively and efficiently carry out both of these missions.

But neither of these capability gaps in organic ISR and aerial refueling is as glaring as the air wing's lack of penetrating long-range strike capability. Manned carrier aircraft can (and currently do) mitigate these capability gaps in ISR and aerial refueling, as can "off-board" aircraft, including the many long-endurance maritime surveillance UAVs and tanker aircraft in the programmed Navy and Air Force fleets.

But more importantly, it will not matter whether on-board or off-board aircraft fulfill these important but ultimately supporting functions if the carrier does not have the long-range penetrating strike capability needed to carry the fight to future adversaries.

As is too often the case in this age of growing threats and scarce resources, the question that Congress faces with regard to UCLASS is one of prioritization. The ongoing debate over platform requirements is really about competing conceptual visions for unmanned carrier aviation, and making sure that the carrier air wing's "hierarchy of needs" is addressed in a strategic manner. That is why I fully support the Pentagon's decision to conduct a Strategic Portfolio Review that will inform the requirements for unmanned carrier aircraft.

Although there is no time to waste, it is imperative that the Navy "measure twice and cut once" on the first and only unmanned carrier aircraft in its program of record. Given prospective fiscal constraints, competition from other programs and the long timelines needed for aircraft development, the opportunity costs of proceeding with the wrong vision and the wrong requirements are simply too high for Congress to stand idly by. The aircraft we begin procuring today must be the aircraft we will need in 2025 and beyond. For all the reasons mentioned above, I believe that aircraft will be, and must be, a long-range, air-refuelable penetrating strike platform that can out-range the mounting threats to the carrier and play a major role in joint efforts to defeat anti-access networks.

Read the article here.