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National Security Depends on American Strength

By Sen. John Thune

April 14, 2023

Providing for a strong national defense is one of the core responsibilities of the federal government. Ensuring our men and women in uniform have what they need to defend against any threat is a responsibility I take very seriously. I’ve long supported and defended Ellsworth Air Force Base and its airmen not only for their importance to South Dakota, but because I believe their mission as an imperative power projection platform is critical to America’s national security. We live in a dangerous world, and history is full of examples of weakness inviting aggression, which is why I firmly believe that to secure peace, we must maintain strength.

Recent events have underscored the necessity of making sure our military is the top fighting force in the world so that we can deter – and, if necessary, confront – any threat. Unfortunately, President Biden has placed little emphasis on investing in our defense capabilities, even while China dials up its military budget. The budget request the president introduced for next year requests a massive hike for non-defense spending compared to a mere 3.2 percent increase for defense. The president’s proposed increase fails to keep pace with current inflation levels, which means that his defense spending hike is really a defense spending cut. At the same time, we have military services that are struggling to meet recruitment targets, a persistent pilot shortage, and in a number of cases we have too few mission-capable aircraft – all while threats to our security continue to rise. A well-funded, sufficiently manned, and fully equipped military is essential to meeting current and future national security threats.

We’ve seen too much short-sightedness from the Biden administration. At home, open borders and hostility to domestic energy production have weakened our security. Porous borders and lax immigration enforcement are an invitation to criminals, terrorists, and others who seek to harm our country. In February alone, 16 individuals on the terror watch list were apprehended attempting to cross our southern border illegally. On the energy front, hostility to domestic energy production increases our dependence on hostile nations for energy while driving up prices and harming our economic strength.

These actions have also helped to embolden our adversaries. The Chinese surveillance balloon flying over U.S. military bases is just the latest iteration of the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans. China is also increasingly aggressive toward Taiwan while further aligning with Russia. Iran is moving closer to nuclear capabilities and strengthening its alliances in the Middle East, while its proxies are launching unprovoked attacks against American forces. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates Putin’s imperial ambitions, which likely go beyond Ukraine.

It’s hard not to draw a line from these emboldened adversaries to the Biden administration’s colossal failure in its handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which sent a clear message of weakness to the world. The after-action report recently released by the administration reiterates yet again that it wasn’t our intelligence that failed, it was the president. He failed to heed warnings from military experts and members of Congress and did not adequately prepare for the worst-case scenario that came to pass. The administration’s attempt to label the withdrawal a success, to wholly blame the previous administration, and skirt accountability, indicates that no lesson has been learned from this failure. And it’s a smack in the face to the families of the 13 heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Kabul airlift and dishonors the generation of veterans who fought and died in Afghanistan.

We can’t be certain what challenges the future will bring, but we can make certain that those who would do us harm know that the United States will always meet their threats with strength. Wishful thinking will not make our world safer. We need to remain engaged in the world to pursue peace, but always be ready to respond to those who would jeopardize it. There is no surer way of preserving peace or protecting our heritage of freedom.