Recently, our nation observed Veterans Day, when we honored the men and women who answered the call to serve our nation. As threats to the homeland from around the world continue to grow, we are reminded of how much we owe to them for their service and sacrifice.
The recent elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. Special Forces demonstrates that there are still evil people devoted to killing Americans and destroying our nation. However, dangerous radical terrorist ideologies are not the only challenge we face around the globe.
We live in a time when we are witnessing the re-emergence of great power competition with Russia and China. These countries are investing massive amounts of resources to erode the international order that the United States and our allies have worked hard to create. If we want to stop Russia and China from transforming the world, it will require sustained American engagements abroad—and these engagements require strong investments in our military.
In the Senate, there is bipartisan agreement that these great power threats are seriously troubling. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the rising dangers to America such as the situation in Syria and an expansionist Russia.
But only speaking out against these dangers is not enough—we need to honor the members of our armed forces through our actions. One of the most important things Congress can do is provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the funding they need to continue protecting America from rising threats.
Blocking this year’s defense appropriations bill—as Democrats in the Senate have done—puts politics above our nation’s safety and is a failure of the congressional duty to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to serve. This promotion of politics above the traditional consensus on national defense is deeply troubling and those who adopt this approach show they are not truly serious about sustaining American leadership and retaining our position in the world.
This appropriations bill supports key defense priorities. It includes important resources to develop new technological areas such as hypersonics, 5G, artificial intelligence, missile defense, and cybersecurity. Importantly, it also provides robust funding for all three legs of the nuclear triad, a top priority of mine as chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the Senate Armed Services Committee. As the men and women of STRATCOM know well, nuclear deterrence remains the bedrock of our national security; it is critically important that the United States maintains its nuclear edge and continue modernizing these forces.
Further, we must remember that our military has still not recovered from natural disasters affecting installations across the country. Relief funding in this bill for Offutt Air Force Base and Camp Ashland are necessary to help these bases and their tenant units fully rebuild.
The defense appropriations bill also provides for a well-deserved military pay increase of 3.1 percent—the largest in a decade. Our troops deserve a pay raise for securing the homeland against all these wide-ranging threats.
Failure to provide our military with this funding—from investments in new technology to disaster relief—would be a major win for countries such as China and Russia at a time when we must do everything we can to maintain our competitive edge in defense. America cannot afford to hand these countries an advantage right now.
If we truly mean what we say about supporting our troops, then we must put political grandstanding aside and move forward with this appropriations bill. We must honor our commitment to our warfighters so that they can continue their mission of keeping America safe, prosperous, and free. Let’s give our troops the pay raise they deserve and the resources they need to sustain a free and open international order.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.