July 21, 2020
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged the Senate to reject an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2021 (S. 4049) proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would cut the Department of Defense budget by 10 percent — breaking the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 and putting national security at risk.
As Prepared for Delivery:
Now, I want to turn to speak about one of the amendments next up – Sen. Sanders amendment that would cut defense spending by 10 percent. Where to begin?
First of all, this amendment would break the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2019. Congress passed this agreement last summer with bipartisan support and the President signed it into law.
The FY21 NDAA fulfills the agreement – providing a total of $740.5 billion for our national defense. I would have preferred to see a higher number, but this is the amount we agreed to. It’s the law of the land.
Even though it is lower than ideal, having budgetary certainty is critical. It’s what our military leaders ask for every time they come before my committee or before Senator Shelby’s committee.
They need on time, predictable and stable funding to do their jobs, and their jobs are only getting harder right now.
Our adversaries are investing in their militaries, building new, advanced weapons, and acting more aggressively than we’ve ever seen before.
The National Defense Strategy describes how our military can counter these threats. Yet - we can’t properly organize, position, and equip our military without the right resources.
The National Defense Strategy Commission Report – a bipartisan document, written by 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats – tells us we need to increase our defense budget each year to meet these needs.
So we already know we need to be increasing our budget just to stay competitive. We’ve already agreed to this total.
Now, one of the criticisms I hear about our defense budget is that we pay much more than other countries.
Here’s the problem with that argument. Other countries, like China and Russia, they don’t take care of their troops. We pay our troops better – giving them a 3 percent pay raise this year.
Beyond the troops, we also take care of their families. So that’s where a lot of our money goes.
Meanwhile, China and Russia are rapidly modernizing their militaries. Over the last decade, China increased their military spending by 83 percent. Russia increased theirs by 34 percent.
At the same time, under President Obama, we cut defense spending by 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. We saw what happened when we did that – we’re still trying to recover.
It’s important to note that this bill exempts military personnel pay and the Defense Health program, which means this amendment is actually equivalent to a 14 percent cut to the rest of the defense budget.
That 14 percent means real cuts to purchasing critical equipment like planes, submarines, and ships.
This means cuts to nuclear modernization and key research that helps us stay competitive with China and Russia.
This means cuts to military construction – including schools for military kids, to programs that support military families, and to programs that support our troops’ morale and welfare.
This is just plain wrong – and I won’t stand for it.
Again, our military combat commanders tell me and the committee they need on time, predictable and stable funding to do their jobs and this amendment that lops 14 percent is the exact opposite of predictable and stable.
In the strongest possible terms, I urge a no vote on this amendment.
All of this will be happening while we continue to face the burden that the pandemic has placed on our military. Our military is a key part of the whole-of-government response to the virus.
Our competitors haven’t given us a free pass while this is all happening. In fact, we’ve seen China and Russia take advantage of this situation. They’ve acted more aggressively.
At the same time, the Department of Defense is working to protect our troops and the civilian workforce from the virus and this needs to continue to be the top priority.
In fact, rather than cutting the defense budget, we actually need to support the military’s COVID response with additional funding. Take this one example:
Defense industrial companies have done a great job in ensuring that their suppliers—primarily thousands of small businesses—stay open and keep their employees paid.
In the CARES Act, we gave DOD the authority and the tools to reimburse these companies to keep the defense workforce strong. But the DOD needs money to use these tools.
If we don’t help these companies, defense weapons programs and maintenance will suffer more cost overruns. The defense industrial base will lose experienced and trained workers, meaning schedule delays are more likely.
This is a good investment for national defense, and a good investment for the American taxpayer.
Now is simply not the time to be cutting our defense budget when we should be doing more. Doing so would be short-sighted, irresponsible, and dangerous.