A heated debate is taking place at the Pentagon between two visions of the role to be assigned to US forces vis-à-vis China. Should they be remotely positioned and be exposed only to missiles, or sit nearby and risk being attacked by enemy soldiers?

The two options involve very different troop deployments and, in the case of bases on the Chinese border, very high costs.

Both the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) and the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) insist that the bases should be as far removed from China as possible. Their opponents instead insist on the need to be in a position to deploy troops immediately should China attack Taiwan. The former, however, counter-argue that Beijing’s annexation of Taiwan would be of little value for the United States.

On his part, General Ken Wilsbach, Commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, advocates for a dispersion of forces in multiple small bases that would be difficult to attack all at the same time.