Recent Op-Eds

To Compete with China, Invest in National Security

By Sen. John Thune

June 23, 2023

Countering the threat from China has to be a priority for the United States. China has recently grown more aggressive not only toward those in its own backyard, but also against the United States. Earlier this year, a Chinese spy balloon traversed America attempting to collect intelligence from military bases. The Chinese military has also taken brazen actions against U.S. military assets in the Pacific. And recent reports indicate China is using Cuba as a base for intelligence gathering from the United States and may begin joint military exercises in Cuba as well.

We are in an era of competition with China, with the Chinese Communist Party intent on displacing U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific so that it may impose its economic and military will throughout the region and beyond. So, we need to make the right decisions now to ensure the United States is able to counter China from a position of strength. And the most important thing we can do is invest in a strong military that is capable of deterring aggression from China and our other adversaries.

The security of our nation is the precondition for everything else. I’ve often said that if we don’t get national defense right, the rest is just conversation. Although the United States military has earned a reputation for being one of the strongest in the world, the fact of the matter is that our military readiness is not where it needs to be to stay ahead of modern threats. In 2018, the National Defense Strategy Commission warned that our readiness had eroded to the point that we might struggle to win a war against a major power like Russia or China. Although we’ve made some progress since then, recent war games have revealed serious deficiencies in some of our key capabilities. We cannot afford to ignore these warnings.

The president and Democrats in Congress, however, have consistently put national defense on the back burner and proposed inadequate funding for the military. This view is out of line with reality. Not only is our own readiness an issue, China has been ramping up its defense budget, which has doubled in the last 10 years. It should come as no surprise then that the Chinese military is outpacing ours in modern capabilities like hypersonic missiles and has amassed a significantly larger navy. And we cannot forget that Russia and rogue nations like Iran still pose threats to our security and national interests.

In an increasingly dangerous world, investing in a strong national defense capable of deterring and, if necessary, confronting threats to our peace and security remains one of my top priorities in the Senate. This includes supporting the B-1 bomber, which has been a workhorse for our military, as well as preparing for the B-21 Raider, which will be housed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The B-21 represents a major advancement in our stealth and long-range strike capabilities, which will also have a deterrent effect on our adversaries. I’m working to ensure that Ellsworth and the surrounding community have the resources they need to accommodate this important new mission.

There’s nothing more important than keeping our country safe and secure. We have work to do to improve the readiness and capabilities of our military in order to engage in this era of competition from a position of strength. I’ll continue working to ensure that the men and women in uniform who work to keep our country safe have the resources they need to get the job done.