U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today with the first Common Sense for the Common Defense, a series of floor speeches designed to highlight key national security policies.
As prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I don’t know how, but a lot of people back home have got it in their heads that defending America is a complicated issue – one best discussed by a brain trust or by people in Washington.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality is that defending America is just plain common sense.
And we all, every American citizen, need to be responsible for our national security. So I’m going to be coming here each week to outline the common sense for our common defense—what we are working on here in Washington—for families back home.
Today I will talk about how we face an urgency in funding our national defense. It is simply common sense.
Without action to exempt the military from sequestration or reach a budget agreement, we will once again face the devastating cuts of the Budget Control Act.
We know what the result of that will be – we saw it during the Obama Administration. Without sufficient, sustained, and predictable funding, we will squander the progress the military has made over the past two years-- improved readiness, increased procurement of critical capabilities, and investment in future technologies.
We need to continue to make progress, and we also need to implement the National Defense Strategy. The Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy correctly prioritized strategic competition with China and Russia. But to be effective, strategies must be matched with resources.
The National Defense Strategy Commission—a bipartisan, independent commission—wrote, “Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights.” Furthermore, “there must be greater urgency and seriousness in funding national defense.”
At a minimum, next year’s defense budget should be $733 billion dollars. That is a floor—not a ceiling—anything less would require the military to start making unacceptable cuts. And $733 billion is a no-growth budget from this year— adjusting only for inflation.
The bipartisan Commission, Secretary Mattis, and General Dunford have called for fully implementing the National Defense Strategy, which would require an additional 3-5% percent real growth.
Some on both sides of the aisle have advocated for cutting defense spending because of the increasing deficit. I’m concerned about the deficit too, but we can’t let ourselves fall into this false choice.
Defense spending is not the primary reason for our increasing debt. We could eliminate the entire Pentagon budget, and the deficit would grow.
Here’s why. Over the past ten years, our national debt has grown 86 percent. During the same time, mandatory spending has grown 41 percent, while defense spending has been cut three percent.
I’m going to say that again. Cut three percent. Meanwhile, constant dollar defense spending dropped $200 billion from 2010 to 2015. In 2010 - $794 billion. In 2015- $586 billion. In percentage terms, this is the fastest drawdown since the years following the Korean War. That's how serious this is.
We must do something about our growing debt, but the only way to actually curtail it is to address the growth in mandatory spending—not by cutting defense spending or demanding dollar-for-dollar increases in non-defense spending. Parity.
As mandatory entitlement programs drive spending growth to new highs, debt held by the American people has correspondingly increased. If we don’t do something about these entitlements, interest on that debt will surpass defense spending by FY2023 and continue to grow.
The simple fact is defense spending does not drive the national debt; growth in mandatory entitlement spending drives our national debt. We cannot ignore this reality. We bankrupt our security and undermine our troops when we choose to ignore this fact.
But the Obama Administration viewed the world as they wanted to see it– not as it was. The assumption that Russia is a strategic partner was, and is, fundamentally flawed and profoundly misguided. It has cost us dearly.
Today, we are faced with the reality that those decisions not only weakened our national security by sacrificing our military advantages over Russia, but it will be costly to recoup the capabilities President Obama chose to cut.
Simply put, the Obama Administration spent 8 years digging a very deep hole in regards to military spending and it is going to take more than two years to dig ourselves out. Why is that?
When the military is forced to reduce spending it must make trade-offs between lowering readiness, reducing force structure, and not modernizing. In the case of the 8 years of Obama, all 3 suffered.
In the meantime, our adversaries have increased their own military spending and focused on force structure and modernization.
The size of the Chinese Navy will soon surpass the U.S. Navy and the gap will only widen through 2030 when the Chinese are projected to have 425 ships, nearly 100 more than the U.S. Navy.
Over the 2000 to 2030 timeframe, the U.S. Navy is growing at an average rate of approximately 1 ship every 2 years, while the Chinese Navy is growing more than 20-times faster at an average rate of about 10 ships annually, and the quality and capability of those ships is increasing as well.
As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee I see no bigger imperative than this: to fully fund our defense and fully implement the National Defense Strategy in a timely manner by avoiding continuing resolutions and sequestration. That is common sense for our common defense.
You know, when I talk to people out in the real world—and I am talking about going out to Oklahoma, talking to groups of people. When they find out that It was true ever since world war II that we have had the occasion of increasing—of being number one in all areas of our equipment, such as artillery and other things, they're shocked to find out that the Chinese and the Russians actually have equipment that's better than us.