AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE MAXWELL AFB United States
Over the last 30 years, the Peoples Republic of China has been growing at an exceptional rate, both economically and militarily. As a country with over 1.3 billion people, China is a dominant presence in the Pacific and the rest of the World. Their influence has emboldened the country to expand national interests off their coast and throughout the South China Sea, as they have undertaken a campaign of disputed land reclamation and militarization of the region. This poses threats to surrounding nations own interests and the internationally recognized right to a free economic zone. The United States wishes to preserve the sanctity of a free economic zone and protect the sovereignty of the many allied Asian nations in the region. As a response, the U.S. has progressively stepped up military activity to balance the region. A more permanent U.S. presence is needed in the area to keep the balance from tipping. With the 2008 recession adding uncertainty to long-term U.S. budgets, the U.S. Air Force must decide their roll, in a budgetary conscientious way, to counter Chinas increasingly threatening posture. This research review uses a scenario planning methodology to explore the history that has contributed to the state of the region and predict likely outcomes. If the U.S. desires to maintain a balance in the region, it will have to be determined where the best locations are to base tactical aircraft within budgetary constraints. The U.S. Air Force should invest in air bases or cooperative security locations in the Philippines to balance the region. The proximity to China and the South China Sea makes the country tactically attractive. Assets in these locations are also more survivable on land and their proximity to bases in Guam, Japan, and Australia allows retrograde options and makes operations more affordable.