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Riki Ellison hosting the "Taiwan and China - The Missile Defense Challenge" virtual discussion from the MDAA office in Alexandria, Virginia on September 1, 2022

“There is an elephant in the room, and there is a dragon in the room that we need to discuss and talk about. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “If you ignore the dragon, it will eat you.” So, we see some of that unfold as we look at the world today. We know back in 1955 and through 1970, we deployed 30,000 American soldiers on Taiwan, and we put 200 nuclear weapons on Taiwan. And we had stability, we did not ignore the dragon and we created a containment strategy that was successful. President Nixon in 1970 wanted to ride the dragon. You can ride the dragon, the Chinese proverb, “you can gain its might and power”. And nourished China brought them back into the international world with the United States, developed their marketplace with the United States, withdrew our nuclear forces in Taiwan and created a relationship that flourished as we’ve seen it.”

“But now we’re back in a situation where today we are challenged to even put our nuclear carriers in the strait. We are challenged by China. And China’s policy with the strategic aspect of being able to own and control open international seas, airways, in particular the First and Second Island Chains, for their control and power. That has come to heights in the first of this month. With the Speaker of the House visiting Taiwan and we’ve seen the reactions from that.”

“So, we are here today on our 44th virtual congressional round table, to be able to bring in, we’ll have about 120 years of experience that we’re bringing to the table for you today. We want to present the policy history of it and the challenges of what we see facing it. We want to present the military challenges that we see with them. We want to present the current solutions that our government is putting forward for the defense, missile defense of that arena. And we want to look at the allies’ solutions to that. We also want to look at the crossover on U.S Homeland defense, because it is the U.S homeland with Guam at the forefront. So that is the discussion that we’re going to have today. And it is very important. It is of national, vital importance for our country and for the world. The world order is being challenged.”

Mr. Riki Ellison, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022

“I think Riki, we’re in a real danger zone here in the next couple years, where the leaders in China who are very ambitious and believe that history, that they are writing a history for a new chapter, a new golden age in China’s long, long centuries, long history, and they want their place in it. And reclaiming Taiwan would be part of that. And they have global ambitions, as I say, to be the world’s preeminent power in return China to that central location in their minds. So we’re in a dangerous period in the next couple years where they see the Chinese Communist Party leaders, I think, and Xi Jinping in particular want to change the status quo, and are testing to see whether they can use force. Now, missiles are going to play a very large part of any kind of conflict or any coercive activity here, and that’s where I think it’s very important for this group to focus for a couple minutes.”

“China has worked very hard to develop, and most importantly, to field the capabilities necessary to exercise this kind of coercion through missile forces. They’ve deployed over 1,000 short and medium range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, and are increasing their long range missile forces. And they don’t disaggregate their theater forces from their long range forces. They’re all operated by the People’s Liberation Army rocket forces, and there, they see an integrated strategy to hold at risk targets in the United States, while also being able to coerce the Taiwan government and the neighboring governments in places like Japan. So we are going to have to have a much larger scale and more effective series of both defenses and offenses to deal with that.”

 Mr. John Rood, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022

“And that thing, that element that John mentioned was that it’s U.S policy to ensure that whatever conflict exists in the Taiwan Strait is not resolved by the use of force. It could be resolved by some other means, diplomatic, otherwise, by the choices, positive choices of the parties involved, but not by force. So deterrence matters. Deterrence is a function of three things. We all know this, but I’ll lay it out. One is communicating what it is to the party that you intend to deter. I think we’re doing that right now. There’s limitations on our lines of communication, but they understand that the U.S does have an intent to deter the use of force.”

“Second is an intent. That’s articulated by our policies. Our policy has some ambiguity baked into them intentionally, but intent is the second element. And the third, is capability and particularly credible capability. And that’s what I want to focus on here is that what is that credible capability that the United States particularly, and by extension allies and partners, bring to the deterrence equation so that the PRC is deterred from using force to settle the Taiwan Straits question. That credibility is a function of being able to project force into the Taiwan Strait.”

Lt Gen (Ret) Jon Thomas, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022

“So what I’d say is it’s a good news bad news thing. The good news is that we finally have a plan. After years of PACOM angst and OSD polling and pushing we have a plan and there’s budget dollars, serious budget dollars being put against in ’22, there was kind of semi-serious money, that kind of lead money you need, in ’23, there could be good money there.”

“Of course the Senate in house has some questions because the bad news part of this is it’s not a good plan, right? And I’m concerned because a plan that I think existed from the Missile Defense Agency, which might have been a traditional plan, has been morphed by an office called CAPE, the Capabilities, Assessments, Programming Office at the Department of Defense. And while they probably had an admirable idea, which is look, because of all the reasons Ty just mentioned, you want to distribute a lot of your defensive capabilities so it’s not concentrated, because there’s going to be a lot of inbound threats, I don’t think it was properly implemented, this idea of distributing it.”

“And I’m going to give you a couple of examples and get right at some of the stuff that John averred to and Ty specifically named.”

Rear Admiral (Ret) Mark Montgomery, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022 

“Well, to answer your first question, how did we end up in this place, there are a lot of times over my career in the Pentagon where you come to that conclusion, we’re in the wrong spot, this isn’t where we want to be. And sometimes people would throw up their hands and say, “How did we get here?” Well, the real answer is we got there one day at a time. We don’t always work. We have different organs and organizations that are set up to play certain roles. Sometimes frankly, they’re not playing their principal role. And I think that’s an issue. And I see that here, and then in other areas, just plain old execution issues.”

“But on the first part, I think we’ve got to stay true to the organization structures and where some of the centers of excellence we’ve set up. The Missile Defense Agency has been set up and given certain authorities to be the center of excellence for how the technology and the skills to develop missile defenses works. We need to empower them. We need to, frankly in my opinion, give them more authority and the ability to move faster. But when you fall away from that, for example, part of this debate has been about the role of the Cape, the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation organization, that’s their role, cost assessment, program evaluation.”

“They’re supposed to help the Secretary of Defense integrate all the different services and other activities being done across the department, not being that principal systems architects, because they don’t have operational experience, not being the principal developers, because they frankly don’t have development experience in the same way that others do. That’s one of the ways we get there. We fall out of understanding where our centers of excellence are and empowering people to do their jobs.”

Mr. John Rood, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022

“You’ve got lives at stake, you’ve got deterrence at stake, you can’t use that money for a test bed anymore. You got to be able to put real capability that can ramp up, scale up to fight the big dragon, to slay the dragon. We got to be able to slay the dragon or have the courage to slay the dragon. We’re not talking about slaying them, but we better have the tools to do it. Because he won’t respect that if we don’t have the tools to slay him and it is a joint group doing it and it’s our country doing it. It is the right thing to do, it takes courage from our allies to be with us. It takes us courage to be out in front, because that market is so big that we’re all affected by it. It takes courage to slay dragons. We got to do it. So thank you for a great discussion and shedding light. No fear, no fear. All good. Thank you.”

Mr. Riki Ellison, “Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge”, September 1, 2022

Click here to view roundtable discussion on Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge

Click here to read the full transcript on Taiwan and China – The Missile Defense Challenge


Mr. John Rood

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Department of Defense

Lt Gen (Ret) Jon Thomas

Former Deputy Commander

U.S. Pacific Air Forces

Rear Admiral (Ret) Mark Montgomery

Former Director of Operations

U.S. Pacific Command

Mr. Riki Ellison

Chairman and Founder

Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.