May 28, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, entered the following statement into the Congressional Record in honor of Military Appreciation Month:
I’ve been down here a lot talking about why we need to increase the defense budget: We face more threats than ever before. China and Russia are investing more in modernizing their militaries than ever before. We need to strengthen our alliances to discourage our adversaries from acting — and the best way to back up our friends is with a strong military.
These are all good reasons. But we’ve got 2.2 million other reasons we need to increase our defense budget: all the brave men and women who serve our country in uniform.
May is Military Appreciation Month, and I could talk all day about all the ways our service members are the best in the world, and how much I appreciate them.
But we shouldn’t just talk about it—we need to show these brave men and women just what they mean to us.
When I travel, I always eat in the mess halls with our troops – not the officers, the enlisted men and women. When I do that, I get a real sense of what our troops need to do their jobs and defend this country. So I have a pretty good idea of what will show them our appreciation:
We should show them by providing adequate, consistent and stable funding — on time.
When budgets are delayed and defense spending is cut, you know who feels it the most? Our troops. It hurts their morale, it hurts their readiness, it hurts their families — it affects everything.
We should show them with more and better training that focuses on their safety. We should show them by giving them modern weapons and equipment that work, and work well.
We should show them by taking care of their families — making sure their spouses have good employment opportunities, their kids have access to high-quality child care and education, and they’ve all got the best health care. We should show them by giving them high-quality housing.
Over the last two years this was my priority, and it will be this year, too. Senator Reed also understands this sacred duty we have.
The last two years, we’ve given our troops a pay raise of 3 percent or more – some of the largest annual pay raises ever. We increased hazardous duty pay by 10 percent last year – that’s what we give our troops in the most dangerous jobs.
We’ve made changes to fix the broken housing system because no service member should ever be living in bad housing. We’re continuing to keep an eye on this until all the necessary fixes are in place – including the Housing Bill of Rights we’re waiting for.
We’ve helped make sure military spouses have good jobs, even when they move.
We’ve focused on building a modern health care system that works for our service members and their families, and we’ve prioritized mental health care for those who serve. I’m proud we’ve been able to do all this.
But here’s the thing: Taking care of our troops — that’s at least a third of our defense budget right there. That’s the right thing to do —our service members are the backbone of our national security.
It’s also the necessary thing to do for our all-volunteer force. No one is forced to enlist anymore. The military needs to compete for our country’s best and brightest, and that takes money.
The troops lay everything on the line to defend our nation. They sacrifice time with their families and friends. As we remember each year on Memorial Day, many make the ultimate sacrifice.
There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude. That’s why we have to show them.
But the math of President Biden’s budget doesn’t add up when it comes to taking care of our troops. Not when we’ve got to do all these other things — defend against more than one serious threat, support our allies and partners, and take on new domains.
We can do things to make things more cost-effective for the taxpayer, but we can’t go back on our promises to those who agreed to serve. They’re all volunteers after all.
So it concerns me when people talk about us spending more than China, Russia and other countries—it's just not true.
One of the reasons our defense budget is large is because we take care of our people. China and Russia — they don’t do that. They give them a gun and tell them to fight.
No one else takes care of their people the way we do. That’s why they don’t have the caliber of people we do. Our military personnel are the best in the world.
So yes, a strong military budget is about sending a message to our enemies. It’s about sending a message to our allies and partners.
But it’s also about sending a message to our troops: That we are going to take care of you and your families while you serve. We’re going to make sure you have what you need to defend this country — the equipment, the training, the personnel, the weapons, the support.
President Biden’s budget equals a cut to national defense. While we’re going to prioritize taking care of our troops, they’re going to feel that cut somehow, someway, no matter what we do.
We’re asking them to do more with less. And we’ve been asking them for decades now.
There are things President Biden and I agree we need to do when it comes to our national defense — keep the Indo-Pacific open and free, enhance our cyber defense, innovate and modernize, and beyond.
But President Biden’s got more on his list of things he wants to ask our military to do — stuff that really falls outside the core mission of the Department of Defense — and he’s not even giving them more budget to do it with.
This is not a message we should send our troops. It’s not what they deserve.
One month for military appreciation — it’s really not enough. But we can show our troops our appreciation year-round by giving them the budget they need — a budget with real growth to match the strategy they’re carrying out.