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Wittman Demands Answers from Biden Administration on Backlog of Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan
Washington, September 19, 2023
Tags: National Defense
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), today participated in the committee’s hearing on defense cooperation with Taiwan. He stressed the need to clear the significant backlog in foreign military sales to Taiwan – using every tool at the State Department’s and Defense Department’s disposal – to support Taiwan and counter the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
Earlier this month, Rep. Wittman returned from leading a congressional delegation (CODEL) to Taiwan, where he met with President Tsai, Secretary-General Koo, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu to reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan and assure any hostile action against Taiwan would evoke a resolute response from the United States.
Congressman Wittman asked the following questions to Mira Resnick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security at the U.S. Department of State:
“I wanted to focus on the Department of State’s FMS 2023 initiative, and essentially you’re saying you’re going to prioritize help in planning assistance in the future. That’s great in the future, but we know the future is now for Taiwan. …
“I had an opportunity to meet with President Tsai with the CODEL that I lead there, and she is adamant about making sure that these foreign military sales backlogs are filled. As you heard the chairman, it’s substantial. Not only F-16s but F-16 parts. As you know, having to scramble those jets every time the Chinese fly into the air defense identification zone wears those jets out. They need those parts for 141 aircraft; they need 66 new aircraft. Prioritization in the future doesn’t address today’s constraints.
“The U.S. has plans to provide 66 aircraft, but those plans were started in 2019. Here we are today. The department says final delivery dates [are] going to be 2026 — that’s seven years, knowing that China has ramped up their efforts in threatening not just Taiwan but threatening the region. And [when] we talk about partnerships, [we assume that] we’re going to have all these friends in the region that help us out. [But it does not] appear that we are being very friendly with the policies that we have and not helping and prioritizing these foreign military sales.
“Congress has authorized the president $1 billion of drawdown authority, but it has been used in the past. Can you tell me why this has not been a priority up until now? Why haven’t we gotten further along with this?
“I agree with President Tsai. They are in dire need of parts and aircraft if they have any hope in deterring the Chinese. Deterrence of the Chinese is a joint effort — it cannot just be the United States. Taiwan rightfully looks at us and [says] ‘you made a lot of promises folks, but you haven’t delivered on the promises.’ Assure me that we’re going to deliver on those promises in a timely manner and it’s not going to take another seven years to deliver what [Taiwan] first asked for in 2019.”
“Congressman, thank you for the question, and of course the opportunity to clarify when the State Department approves and when Congress approves of a weapon sale that is the beginning of the process for contracting.”
“I understand the process. Tell me about outcomes.”
“After contracting, it then goes to industry, so we are waiting on industry. We have been working with industry to step up their production. This has been a particular effort at the Pentagon for Deputy Secretary [Kathleen] Hicks, who has worked tirelessly to be able to shorten those production timelines. But you are absolutely right that we need to use other tools. Let me talk about two of them.
“The first is foreign military financing because knowing that if we need to get something on contract in order for production to start, we have been using foreign military financing for the first time in this administration. If Taiwan is unable to, because of their fiscal year, to get something on contract, then we can supplement Taiwan’s defense budget, which as I said in my opening, has doubled in the last seven years so they have skin in the game here. But we are able to supplement Taiwan’s defense budget by getting something on contract immediately and also so that they don’t miss the military acquisition window.
“There is a second, which is as you mentioned, the presidential drawdown authority. For the first time we used this authority because … Congress authorized that authority. And we thank you for that, we think this is a very effective tool. This is a permanent authority, so we will continue to use this. We do not expect to have to come back to you over and over again for a new authority here, so thank you for that authority, and we will continue to use it.”
“What pressures have you put on industry with the urgency that is behind needing these aircraft to help Taiwan protect itself? What have you done to make sure that industry delivers?”
“We understand that what industry is looking for is predictability to make sure that if they’re going to open new production lines or if they are going to run the production lines on overtime. So we have worked very closely with Lockheed — I understand that the Air Force and Lockheed are working together on this in order to address some of the issues with the F-16. So we do work with industry, and we continue to do that.”
“Thank you. Working needs to equal delivery. I hope to see delivery of those aircraft here in the months to come. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”