U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today urged his colleagues to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that would provide our troops with the resources they need to keep Americans safe. The NDAA also provides important benefits to the families of our men and women in uniform, and it authorizes combat and troop pay increases and provides for the personnel and equipment necessary to combat ISIS and other dangers around the world.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, as we enter the final stretch of the Obama administration, many have begun analyzing the president’s tenure and debating what legacy he will leave.
“People are asking: ‘Are we better off?’
“And: ‘Are we safer?’
“And unfortunately, Mr. President, the evidence suggests that the answer to both questions is ‘No.’
“As we look around the world right now, we see more and more unrest and insecurity.
“And the foreign policy failures of the president and his administration are partly responsible.
“Again and again, when it’s come time for the president to lead, he’s chosen instead to sit on the sidelines.
“And his failure to act has emboldened our enemies and alienated our allies.
“Take the situation in Syria.
“Mr. President, I am not blaming the start of the Syrian civil war on President Obama, but when a red line was drawn …
“Then crossed …
“And the president ignored it …
“We lost our credibility and our ability to influence President Assad
“And as we retreated from a position of strength, turmoil and unrest in Syria erupted.
“But the president’s reluctance to act must have looked familiar to foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin.
“It doesn’t make the front pages of the papers anymore, but we must remember that Russia invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine and annexed Crimea while the president did nothing.
“After that, it’s no surprise that Russia felt free to involve itself in Syria, or that it continues to occupy and influence parts of eastern Ukraine as if it were a colony and not a free nation.
“Recently, we have also seen Russian jets buzzing U.S. Navy ships.
“Mr. President, I can think of few other presidents who would have stood for Russia’s behavior, but this passiveness now defines President Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
“The now infamous Russian reset promoted by President Obama and Secretary Clinton will go down in history as a strategic failure of this administration.
“In the Pacific, which was intended to be a key focus of the president’s foreign policy, China has largely gone unchallenged, especially in the South China Sea.
“The noticeable absence of the U.S. over the last seven years has led to China’s building an island and standing up an airfield in some of the most disputed waters in the world.
“An island, Mr. President.
“Can you imagine if a country tried to build an island near the U.S. and then militarized it?
“It’s no surprise that our allies in southeast Asia are growing increasingly nervous with a rising military power making such aggressive claims on their doorsteps.
“Then there’s the situation in Iraq.
“During his campaign, the president promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, which he then proceeded to do on a publicly announced timetable.
“Military planners and congressional Republicans warned that telegraphing our plans to insurgents would encourage them to bide their time and wait for our troops to leave before preying upon an underprepared Iraqi military.
“But it was evident that President Obama and Secretary Clinton didn’t want to see our obligation to the Iraqis through.
“They were more interested in keeping an ill-advised campaign promise, no matter what the cost to security in Iraq.
“The president proceeded with his plans to withdraw our troops without pressing former Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki on the importance of making sure his country was stable and secure before we withdrew.
“And everyone knows what happened next.
“The lack of American troops left a gaping hole in Iraq’s security, and ISIS rolled in to fill the gap.
“Once called the JV team by President Obama, ISIS quickly established itself as arguably the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.
“From its safe haven in Iraq, ISIS has spread terror across the Middle East and into Europe, destroying peaceful communities and cultural relics alike in its pursuit of a caliphate.
“My heart especially breaks for the Christians and other religious minorities in the region in this time of darkness.
“Their experience under ISIS has been one of relentless persecution and suffering.
“Genocide, Mr. President.
“And ISIS’ spread has only made the situation in Syria more dire, as well as extended terror beyond the Middle East to Europe.
“It may also have influenced a mass shooting in the U.S.
“Mr. President, even the president’s supposed leadership triumphs have demonstrated his unwillingness to stand up to our nation’s enemies.
“As the days pass, the buyer’s remorse for the Iran deal from Democrats continues to grow.
“The president negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran that will not only fail to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but will actually make it easier for Iran to acquire advanced nuclear weapons down the road.
“This deal will jeopardize the security of the United States and our allies for many years to come.
“Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes has admitted to creating “an echo chamber” of falsehoods to sell the deal.
“We have also learned that a firm that helped push the deal also funded positive media coverage.
“So not only was this a bad deal that will make it easier for Iran to acquire advanced nuclear weapons down the road, the administration was disingenuous in how it sold the deal.
“It pulled a fast one over Congress, the American people, and our partners around the world, all in the name of burnishing the president’s legacy—not because it was the will of the people.
“This is another instance of the president’s missteps that send troubling signals to our allies—in this case, Israel, our closest and most reliable ally in the region.
“Mr. President, I make these points because it is against this backdrop of growing international instability and lessening U.S. influence that the Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act.
“This legislation authorizes the funding necessary to equip our troops with the resources they need to carry out their missions.
“As we look beyond the failures of the Obama administration to the challenges that lie ahead, it is even more important that when it comes to our military, we get things right.
“Mr. President, it is not America’s strength that tempts our adversaries; it is our weakness.
“Thus, we need to ensure that our military is well-equipped and trained to meet the challenges of rising powers through high-tech capabilities, while also being agile and versatile to combat increased unconventional threats from non-state actors.
“We sleep at night in peace and safety because our military stands on watch around the globe.
“As threats multiply around the world, we must ensure that our military has every resource it needs to confront the dangers facing our nation.
“We need to support essential, forward-looking weapons systems, like the B-21 long-range strategic bomber and high-tech drones, to deter and defeat future threats.
“We must ensure that detainees stay at Guantanamo, instead of returning to the fight.
“We must ensure that our troops and their families at home have the support they need and deserve.
“This bill will help accomplish all that.
“Mr. President, as we continue to debate the NDAA, I’m sure there will be some contentious issues.
“But while there may be some disagreement, we need to have this debate, find a consensus, and pass this essential legislation without delay.
“Playing politics with funding for our troops, as the president did by vetoing the NDAA bill last summer, is unacceptable.
“I urge my colleagues to join me in advancing this essential legislation to provide for our troops, ensure the safety and defense of America, and help restore America’s position of strength.”
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