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June 25, 2020

Inhofe on the Floor: FY21 National Defense Authorization Act Sends a Clear Message to China and Russia — You Can't Win Against Us

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today in support of S. 4049, the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2021.  

As Prepared for Delivery: 

For the next week, the Senate will be debating the most important bill we do all year – the National Defense Authorization Act. In just a few days, American families across the country will celebrate the Fourth of July – Independence Day. The day that honors our blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Not all countries share these values. In fact, they reject them. China and Russia would rather have an authoritarian world, one where democracy doesn’t exist —where the rest of the world yields to them.  According to the National Defense Strategy, China and Russia are our greatest threat right now. They are building up their militaries and expanding their influence around the world. 

The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is all about sending a message to China and Russia. It says, “There is no way you can defeat us — so don’t even try.” We know that the way we preserve peace is by demonstrating our strength. We have the best military in the world — and our enemies need to know that. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We must implement the National Defense Strategy because our comparative military advantage is at risk right now. China and Russia are catching up to us — and quickly. 

Here’s one big reason why: China and Russia have invested in their military. According to The Economist, China increased its military spending by 83 percent from 2009 to 2018. Over essentially the same time frame, Russia grew its defense budget by 35 percent.  And don’t forget – these countries willfully mislead on many things – including the actual size of their defense budgets. Russia’s is almost three times larger than most people think. Because of these investments, China and Russia have grown not just the size of their military but their capabilities as well. Last October, China paraded a hypersonic weapon, showing off a technology we don’t even have yet. 

Their investments aren’t restricted by their borders. I’ve seen their build-up in action across the world.  One prime example: China just built its first overseas military base – in Djibouti, right on one of the world’s most important maritime routes. I saw it firsthand: China is trying to take control of more than 40 ports in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, we see China and Russia grow more and more aggressive and antagonistic. China in particular has used the pandemic to lash out in every direction. They’ve antagonized and harassed Taiwanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian vessels in the South China Sea; and used every tool in their shed to coerce Australia into silence about COVID-19. And now 20 Indian soldiers are dead – some killed by what are essentially baseball bats with spikes – as China continues its premeditated military incursion along the border with India.   Meanwhile, Russia continues to prop up the murderous Assad regime. Putin has sent mercenaries to Libya and throughout Africa. Both countries have been supporting the corrupt Maduro regime in Venezuela. 

We’ve seen the warning signs of this for at least a decade, but, meanwhile, the previous administration let our military advantage erode.  For eight years, we had a president who said the military was not a top priority. President Obama cut funding for national defense – to the tune of 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Defending America wasn’t his top priority. He was an honest liberal and was upfront about the fact he wanted to devote more resources to his social programs at the expense of defense. The result: it’s no wonder we’re falling behind. Now, we’ve started turning that around.

Now, we have a president whose top priority is keeping American families secure.  Over the past few years, we began rebuilding our military, thanks to President Trump – restoring our military might with new planes, ships, and weapons. Take what we’re doing at Fort Sill as an example.  Right now, we’re outranged and outgunned by Russia and China. Fort Sill is leading the Army’s modernization efforts on long-range precision fires to restore our combat advantage. That’s happening all over the country, too.  Restoring our might is important – but it’s not the only thing that matters. We’ve also got to make sure that these planes, ships and weapons are in the right places, at the right time.

That’s what this NDAA does. It makes sure we’ve got a credible military deterrent that signals to any potential adversaries that they don’t stand a chance against us. We do so by putting implementation of the National Defense Strategy into overdrive, using the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission report as a roadmap.

Here are just a few examples of what we do: The bill establishes the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which will focus resources on the Indo-Pacific - addressing key military capability gaps, reassuring our allies and partners, and bolstering our credibility. The bill ensures we have a combat-credible forward posture and helps us develop and field the joint capabilities needed to take on the conflicts envisioned by the NDS. We push back on China’s and Russia’s attempts to expand their influence by building new alliances and partnerships and strengthening existing ones. We protect against intrusion from China and Russia – in space, cyberspace, and beyond. We safeguard proprietary technology and intellectual property from being infiltrated by the Government of China. We also reduce our reliance on foreign countries like China as a source for a variety of materials and technologies, including microelectronics and rare earth minerals – but also medical devices and pharmaceuticals. 

Last but not least, we accelerate investment in research and development into the technology that will help us catch up with China and Russia: hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and more. We make sure we’re fielding the latest and greatest in equipment and weapons – fifth-generation aircraft, and battle force ships. We also modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal – which serves as a strong deterrent to our enemies. 

In sum, this bill sends a message – a strong message – to China, Russia, and anyone else who would try it: We know what you’re up to. We know how to stop you. You simply can’t win against us. 

I encourage my colleagues to join me in sending an unmistakable signal that we will fight for freedom, no matter what.

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