Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Joint Base Langley-Eustis senior enlisted leaders in, Virginia, March 24, 2022.

Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Joint Base Langley-Eustis senior enlisted leaders in, Virginia, March 24, 2022. U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Chloe Shanes

Vice chief: US can handle Middle East, Ukraine, China missions all at once

But another temporary funding bill is ‘not where we need to be,’ Adm. Grady says.

A trio of crises, from the Middle East to Europe to the South China Sea, has some observers worrying that the Biden White House may fail a critical “stress test.” But the U.S. military is capable of handling all three at once, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday—adding that yet another continuing resolution would make each job more “challenging.”

“You look at what is required to support Ukraine, look at what might be required to support our partner in Israel, and then of course, you put Taiwan on top of that—we have the construct that we do with combatant commanders and the rest that should allow us to command and control those three things all at one time,” Adm. Christopher Grady told an audience at an Atlantic Council event. “It's part of our campaigning process, which is central to the national defense strategy. Is it challenging? Sure.”

But in each of those areas, adversaries and would-be adversaries are taking escalatory actions. On Sunday, the U.S destroyer Carney shot down at least three incoming drones while responding to distress calls from civilian vessels attacked by ballistic missiles.

The admiral didn’t say whether he believed Iran was directly orchestrating or planning the Houthi attacks, but said Tehran could exert pressure on the Houthis to stop the attacks if it wanted to. 

On China, Grady highlighted increased naval activity near the Philippines’ Second Thomas Shoal. Over the weekend, Chinese officials said they had deployed a ship to track the USS Gabrielle Giffords, which Beijing said had illegally intruded into Chinese territory. U.S. officials responded that the Giffords was merely transiting international waters. 

Grady said increased Chinese activity near the shoal was “a case where the probability of buffoonery goes way high as you start to see the Chinese PRC, PLA and, more importantly, not PLA and but kind of white and white vessels like Coast Guard equivalents,” participating in activities meant to coerce U.S. allies in the region like the Philippines and Taiwan. 

More disturbingly, he said, “The tempo is a little bit higher right now. This Isn't a test case for what we would do; I think it's a test case for the whole rules-based international order, frankly.”

On the Philippines, he said: “I'm really impressed with what they've been able to do. And I think that's reflective of the strength of the relationship that we have with them.”

One thing that does rattle Grady, he said, is the prospect of another continuing resolution, temporary funding passed by Congress in lieu of spending bills for the full fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. No new programs or increased spending are permitted under a CR, which amounts to a cut, he said.  

“That's another 1% haircut right? So no new starch, can’t buy more weapons, all those things that make it really challenging,” he said. “If there's any takeaway from this discussion today, continuing resolutions are not where we want to be.”