President Ronald Reagan said during his 1986 State of the Union address that “spending for defense is investing in things that are priceless — peace and freedom.”
If we do not invest in our military, we risk losing the priceless peace and freedom that countless Americans have fought and died defending.
Our nation is facing challenges across the globe in ways I have never seen in all of my years in Congress. The threats to our national security have grown, but both the size of our military and its readiness have been so degraded we cannot provide the combat ready forces required to meet these security challenges.
This lack of readiness threatens the lives of our service men and women. And moreover, it puts our homeland and national interests at risk.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Trump administration have made a resounding commitment to rebuild and strengthen our armed forces through three specific phases — improve warfighter readiness, address shortfalls and build a larger, more capable and more lethal joint force.
As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness of the Senate Armed Services Committee or SASC, I fully support Secretary Mattis and President Trump. It is time to rebuild our military and this starts with readiness. Our Department of Defense has been forced to make deep cuts to investments in military construction or MILCON.
The steady downturn in MILCON projects directly impacts readiness and the ability of our military to meet mission requirements. Improving our forces’ readiness starts with once again prioritizing investments in new military infrastructure. Cuts in MILCON affect our military and can be seen at our own Altus Air Force Base.
The base has been in need of a new fire station for years and building a new one has been a priority for the base and within the Air Force. However, under MILCON cuts during the Obama administration, this project was never able to get funding.
This is unacceptable, which is why I have worked hard in my role as Readiness Subcommittee chair to prioritize the new fire station. Without an adequate fire station, the lives of our armed service members who serve on the base, as well as first responders, are put at risk. This is not just a safety problem; it is a readiness problem, and it illustrates a larger problem across our nation’s military installations.
Further, it is imperative that our Department of Defense does not consider a round of base realignment and closure or BRAC while our readiness is at an all-time low. Our first priority must be rebuilding the force. If we do a BRAC now, we’d be diverting money away from rebuilding and focusing it on closing bases that we may actually need with our larger force.
We must understand what our future force structure will look like — its size and composition, how it will train and the infrastructure required to sustain it — before we are even have the necessary information to begin to think about base closures.
We ask much of our service men and women deployed around the world and those preparing for combat here at home. We owe them a profound debt for their willingness to serve and to risk everything for the good of our nation. The least we can do is give them the tools and infrastructure they need to maximize military readiness and minimize the risks they face in carrying out the invaluable work of securing our nation.
When it comes to funding our military Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley said it best, “the only thing more expensive than deterrence, is actually fighting a war. And the only thing more expensive than fighting a war, is fighting one and losing one.”
We need to address all readiness issues, including the fire station at Altus Air Force Base, and that is what I am working to accomplish in Washington.