U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of funding the U.S. military by passing this year’s defense appropriations bills. Thune also recognized the U.S. Air Force, but especially the airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, on their 72nd birthday today.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, defense funding is always an imperative.
“There are always going to be bad actors who threaten our country, whether they’re major powers like China or Russia or terrorist organizations like ISIS or al-Qaeda.
“And we have to be prepared to counter those threats.
“In the United States, we’re used to having the most outstanding military in the world.
“We’ve come to rely on it.
“We assume our military will always be the best because it has been the best for as long as we can remember.
“But we can’t forget that our military preeminence is the result of sustained investment.
“And while our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines constitute the most advanced and proficient fighting force in the world, they can’t do their jobs or maintain our military superiority without adequate resources.
“And that includes funding not just the weapons, equipment, and technology of today, but also the weapons, equipment, and technology of the future.
“It’s too late to modernize our military when the threat has reached us.
“We need to invest in the equipment and technology of the future now, so that when the threats of tomorrow materialize, we will be ready.
“This means delivering platforms like the future B-21 bomber on schedule and making robust investments in the cyber and space domains.
“Mr. President, right now, our military is rebuilding after years of underfunding and the strains of the war on terror.
“Here in the Senate, members of both parties have worked together over the past couple of years to meet our military’s funding and rebuilding needs, and I hope that trend will continue.
“In November 2018, 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 Russia or China.
“And the commission noted that we would be especially vulnerable if we were ever called on to fight a war on two fronts.
“That’s a dangerous situation for our country to be in, and we need to keep working to rebuild our military so that we are not trailing behind other nations.
“Other countries are certainly not holding back on military preparedness.
“Russia and China are busy investing in their militaries as we speak, and have recently conducted joint military exercises.
“As the leader noted on the floor on Monday, military spending in China over the last decade has nearly doubled.
“Meanwhile, these countries have continued to flex their military power outside the borders of their countries, underscoring the need for other nations to be prepared to deter their aggression.
“And of course, while we may be in a new era of great power competition, we still face threats from rogue states and terrorist organizations.
“We need to be prepared to meet multiple threats on multiple fronts if we want to ensure the security of our nation.
“Mr. President, later today the leader is planning to have the Senate vote to begin debate on a package of appropriations bills, including this year’s defense appropriations bill.
“Less than two months ago, Democrats in both the House and the Senate agreed on an increased funding level for our military, which is reflected in the defense appropriations bill.
“The defense appropriations measure funds current military priorities and invests in the research our men and women in uniform need to be prepared for the future.
“It also provides for a 3.1 percent pay increase for our military – the largest pay increase in a decade.
“It would be very disappointing if Democrats chose now to play politics and put their personal political agenda over the security of our country and the welfare of our men and women in uniform.
“The military needs to be funded through regular-order appropriations bills – not through temporary funding measures that leave the military in doubt about funding levels and unable to start essential new projects.
“So I hope our Democrat colleagues will honor the commitment they just made and work with Republicans to pass the defense appropriations package before the end of the fiscal year.
“Likewise, I hope Senate Democrats will resist the temptation to play politics over this year’s national defense authorization bill and will work with us to initiate a conference with the House to resolve our differences.
“Our colleagues have the opportunity to take both of these important steps this week.
“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to wish a happy 72nd birthday today to the U.S. Air Force, most especially to the airmen of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
“I’d also like to wish a happy birthday to the South Dakota Air National Guard, which celebrates the 73rd anniversary of its establishment on Friday.
“The Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing recently had a change of command.
“Colonel Mark Morrell assumed command from Colonel Nathan Alholinna on September 7.
“I wish the Fighting Lobos continued success under their new leadership, and I wish Colonel Alholinna the best and thank him for his many years of service.
“While investing in equipment and technology is essential to our nation’s defense, as always our greatest strength is found in the men and women of the United States military.
“It is first and foremost because of their dedication and sacrifice that all of us live in freedom.
“I hope the men and women of Ellsworth and the South Dakota Air National Guard enjoy their celebrations this week.
“They are well-deserved.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”