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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of passing a strong National Defense Authorization Act that strengthens our national security and Ellsworth Air Force Base’s position in defending it, addresses concerns about U.S. military readiness, and provides support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, in 1793 in his annual address to Congress, George Washington noted, ‘If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.’
“Or in the words of another president nearly 200 years later – ‘We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.’
“Mr. President, the United States has a well-deserved reputation for strength.
“And aggressors think twice before tangling with the U.S. military.
“But strength has to be maintained, Mr. President.
“And we have not done a good enough job of that lately.
“Five years ago, the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission released a report warning that our readiness had eroded to the point where we might struggle to win a war against a major power like China.
“And while we have made some progress since then at rebuilding our readiness, we are still a long way from where we need to be.
“Recent U.S. war games envisioning a U.S.-China conflict following an attack on Taiwan have had grim results, showing enormous military and economic costs on both sides.
“‘One news story on these war games noted, and I quote, ‘And while the ultimate outcome in these exercises is not always clear — the U.S. does better in some than others — the cost is [clear]. In every exercise the U.S. uses up all its long-range air-to-surface missiles in a few days, with a substantial portion of its planes destroyed on the ground.’
“Let me just repeat that last line.
“‘In every exercise the U.S. uses up all its long-range air-to-surface missiles in a few days, with a substantial portion of its planes destroyed on the ground.’
“Mr. President, I don’t need to tell anyone that that is a profoundly concerning position for us to be in.
“China is growing increasingly aggressive in the Indo-Pacific – and it has also adopted an increasingly aggressive posture toward the United States.
“And it is investing heavily in its military.
“If we want to deter Chinese aggression, we have to ensure that our military is strong enough to make China want to avoid challenging us.
“And we can’t accomplish that if we would run out of key munitions in a few days of combat.
“And while China has to be a major focus when it comes to our defense policy, it is far from the only threat out there.
“Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is all the reminder we need that Russia is not a peaceful nation.
“North Korea launched two missiles just this Monday.
“Iran continues to pursue its aggressive nuclear agenda, threaten Israel, and attempt to seize ships in the Persian Gulf.
“And the list goes on.
“Which brings me to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate expects to wrap up this week.
“I am pleased to report that this year’s NDAA makes real progress on the readiness front.
“It bolsters our security posture in the Indo-Pacific and deepens our ties with Taiwan.
“It rejects the president’s dangerous plan to shrink the U.S. Navy, and authorizes investment in new ships.
“It also contains multiple measures to increase our supply of munitions, including the addition of six critical munitions to the Pentagon’s multi-year procurement program.
“Two of these munitions – Tomahawk missiles and MK 48 torpedoes – play an important role in our ability to deter China.
“On the European front, the bill invests in Russia deterrence by continuing support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, and it bolsters oversight to ensure U.S. funding is being used appropriately.
“The NDAA also holds NATO members accountable for investing in their own defense by prioritizing our links with partners who meet the commitment to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
“This year’s bill also ensures that our military keeps its focus on defense, and not divisive Democrat social initiatives, by limiting so-called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion bureaucracy.
“Above all, I’m proud to report that this year’s bill authorizes full funding for the next steps of the B-21 mission – the Air Force’s new long-range strategic bomber, which will revolutionize our long-range strike capabilities and be hosted at South Dakota’s own Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“Mr. President, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If we don’t get national security right, the rest is just conversation.
“If there is one area in which we can’t fail, it is in providing for the defense of our nation.
“This year’s National Defense Authorization Act is not sufficient to address all of our nation’s readiness issues, but it makes an important down payment on boosting our preparedness, and I look forward to supporting it later this week.
“I hope that we will continue to have a robust amendment process, so that other important ideas can be considered and all members have a chance to make their voices heard.
“And I hope that Congress will continue to make investing in our military a top priority.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”