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March 23, 2021

Inhofe Urges Biden to Get Serious by Increasing Defense Budget

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today urging President Biden to provide sustained investment in national defense to deter adversaries like China from using military force. 

As Prepared for Delivery: 

I’m down here today to talk about something I’ve talked about many times before, and that’s the need to have a strong defense budget so we deter our adversaries, especially China, away from the possibility of war.

But I think it’s important we talk about it again. In fact, it’s more important than ever.

Over the past few weeks, the Senate Armed Services Committee has been having hearings where we’ve heard from top military leaders, defense experts, and Pentagon officials. What we’ve heard has been grim.

General H.R. McMaster told us: since the 1990s, China has undertaken the “largest peacetime military buildup in history.”

Admiral Davidson, who leads the United States Indo-Pacific Command, said, “I think our conventional deterrent is actually eroding in the region.”

Last week, Admiral Faller, who leads United States Southern Command, said “Now, more than ever, I feel a sense of urgency about global threats we face in our neighborhood.”

I agree. I thought the Cold War was bad, but the threats we’re facing now, especially from China, are more complex and more dangerous than anything we’ve seen before.

I’m glad to hear President Biden and members of his administration say China is our top pacing threat. Both Secretary Austin and Deputy Secretary Hicks told the Armed Services Committee that during their nomination hearings. 

What concerns me is I haven’t seen the Biden Administration take any action that backs up these words.

Instead, we’re hearing rumors that the Biden administration is considering a flat defense budget, which is actually a two-percent cut when you adjust for inflation.

At the same time, China is increasing theirs by 6.8 percent. We’re cutting, they’re increasing.

This sort of thing tells me that the Biden administration isn’t serious about pushing back on China. You know what? It also tells China the same thing. 

Talk is cheap – but defending our country is not.

If we really want to send the right signal to Beijing — a signal that says you can’t ever win against us — we need sustained investment in our defense.

We’ve seen what happens when we cut defense spending before. Look no further than the Obama administration. 25 percent over five years.

If we had just increased defense spending with the rate of inflation over the past decade, we could have invested another $400 billion in modernizing our military—money we wouldn’t have to spend today. Instead we’re playing catch-up with China, which added at least $200 billion (that we know about) to its own defense budget over the same timeframe.

Chinese military modernization has been nothing short of astounding. Their ability to move fast and increase production rates is leaving us in the dust.

They’ve invested heavily in the advanced capabilities we know we need, like hypersonic weapons, AI, biotechnology, and quantum computing.

We’re already spreading our military too thin. Our service members have been asked to do too much, with too little, for too long. But we know how we can put our military on a better track. We’ve got a blueprint – the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

We know this strategy is right when it comes to priorities and the long-term nature of this competition. Secretary Austin and Deputy Secretary Hicks said as much.

So why are they talking on adding more missions, including the department’s role in climate change and pandemic response, and not countering China?

So, we know what the strategy needs to be, and that tells us what the demands on our force look like. Those demands keep growing. Now, we need to match the budget with that strategy. We know what that looks like. That’s at least 3-5 percent real growth, above inflation, each year for the near future.

What does this mean in real dollars? An increase of at least $75 to $125 billion dollars each year. This kind of investment for five years in a row would completely close the difference between U.S. and Chinese defense spending.

What does this investment get us? It allows us to keep our commitment our service members—to not only take care of them and their families, but also to give them the tools and training to do their jobs.

It allows us to dig out of the hole we’ve dug over decades due to insufficient funding and overuse of the force. The bills have been piling up for years.

This is a down payment to get the U.S. military healthy for decades of strategic competition.

Now I’m hesitant to even entertain this idea, but I think it’s important to talk about this. I know there are some out there who would like to see the President go even further, and cut defense spending by 10 percent.

This is flat wrong—and Congress has already flat rejected it on a bipartisan basis, last year. In the Senate, it was defeated 77-23. Even in the Democrat-led House, it was defeated by a 3-to-1 margin.

Take it from the President’s own Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kath Hicks, who wrote that a 10 percent cut would turn the United States into a regional power, increase nuclear proliferation, and weaken our alliances.

This is completely opposite to everything President Biden says he wants to do. It would preemptively surrender the 21st century to the Chinese Communist Party.

We can’t spend our way out of our problems with China — but we can spend too little to give ourselves a chance. A strong defense budget is the first step. It underpins all our other efforts when it comes to diplomacy, the economy, or technology.

China isn’t going to slow its military investments any time soon. In fact, we know their actual level of spending is a lot larger than it looks. Economics, yes, but the Chinese Communist Party also lies about its military budget. No surprise, we know they lied about COVID 19 and they continue to lie about their human rights atrocities against the Uighurs.

If we don’t properly resource our military — and put the right forces in the right places at the right time with the right stuff — we’re going to fall further behind.

The bipartisan 2018 NDS Commission report already said the U.S. military could very well lose the next state on state war it fights.

We need the Biden administration to lead here — to walk the walk, not just talk the talk — when it comes to China. And if the Biden team won’t lead, I’ll make sure we use my role in Congress to send a message.

It’s not just Beijing that needs to see that we’re serious — our allies and partners need to see this too.

The best signal we can send is a strong defense budget topline. This can’t simply can’t wait any longer. This is common sense.

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