Military & National Security
We've been at war for over 12 years, longer than any previous stretch in our nation's history. The men and women of our armed forces have sacrificed much over the last 12 years and succeeded under the most difficult of circumstances.
Although our intense military involvement in Afghanistan is drawing to an end, that doesn't mean we are retreating from the global challenges that remain. The world is more unpredictable than at any point in recent memory. The Arab world's struggle for tolerance and democratic change, nuclear proliferation, the unabated threat of terrorism, and the growing power and influence of regional states, some of whose interests run counter to our own, are just some of the challenges that define the post-9/11 world. Cyber threats – from espionage to attacks on our infrastructure – pose severe threats to our security and our commerce.
Georgia has a crucial role in preserving global order and promoting national security.Navy submarines from King's Bay patrol the oceans with nuclear weapons to deter potential adversaries from striking us. The Air Force repairs several models of jets and manages logistics for the fleet at Warner Robins. And it flies the world's premiere close air support jet and rescue helicopter that support our men and women on the ground in Afghanistan at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta. At Ft. Benning, home of the elite Army Rangers, the Army trains a wide variety of soldiers, from recruits to officers, to perform a wide variety of jobs from jumping out of airplanes at Airborne School to driving tanks.
At Ft. Gordon near Augusta, home of the Signal Corps, the Army trains soldiers in signals intelligence and provides cutting edge cyber capabilities. Ft. Stewart is home of the legendary 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in World Wars I and II, Korea, and Iraq. Hunter Army Airfield, just down the road in Savannah, is home to a battalion of Army Rangers and Nightstalkers, some of the pilots who fly our special operations forces on the most dangerous missions. And the Marine Corps fixes the majority of its ground combat equipment, helicopters, and jets at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.
Georgia's installations also serve as major economic drivers in communities across Georgia. The Department of Defense employs more than 140,000 in Georgia, the 5th most of any state, and our installations have a $20 billion economic impact. But Congress’ chaos driven budgeting process and failed leadership has hurt Georgia’s bases. Sequestration – the self-inflicted across the board budget cuts triggered when Congress couldn’t agree on a budget – forced furloughs for Georgia defense workers and created uncertainty that hurt Georgia’s economy. And last year’s shutdown led to mandatory furloughs for thousands of employees at Georgia’s military bases and slowed the VA’s ability to process benefits.
But Georgia and our nation have been fortunate to have had bipartisan political leadership in Congress dedicated to our country’s security. As Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, my great uncle Carl Vinson was considered the father of the two-ocean navy. In the Senate, Richard Russell almost single-handedly guided defense policy during his 13 years as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And my dad, Sam, led the committee as the Cold War ended and helped to secure Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal during his 24 year tenure in that chamber. Since then, Senators Max Cleland and Saxby Chambliss also served Georgia honorably as members of this important committee.
In the U.S. Senate, I hope to follow in the footsteps of great Georgia leaders who have fought to keep Georgia’s military bases at the forefront of innovation and make them indispensable for our military. And I’ll work hard with like-minded leaders to bring common-sense budgeting back to our nation’s capitol.
Smart power for a post-9/11 world
As we work to protect our country in a dangerous world, we have to make smart decisions about the challenges before us:
- It is about the troops, their families and their mission. We have the strongest, most capable military the world has ever known, and we must maintain this strength. Recruiting our finest sons and daughters, offering them good pay and family support, issuing them the best equipment and the smartest technology, and then training them harder and longer than anyone else is the backbone of our military strength.
The men and women of our armed forces have deployed repeatedly across the globe, leaving husbands, wives, children, and parents behind. Our Georgia communities embraced these military families during hard times and long periods of absence. And though deployments may grow less frequent and shorten in duration, we must continue to support our military families. This allows our troops to focus on their mission and honors their sacrifice. It is our civic duty to those who’ve taken a solemn oath of our defense.
- We have to stop the meat ax approach to our defense budget and get more bang for the buck. Some defense cuts were restored in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, but over a ten-year period that began in 2013 the sequester law is set to reduce previously planned spending by approximately $300 billion. This is not a sensible plan for strong U.S. leadership and for giving our men and women the best possible equipment and training. If we’re serious about cutting Federal spending, the defense department has to tighten its belt, but we should make those reductions rationally, accounting for threats and the successful execution of strategy.
The Pentagon is not perfect when it comes to spending the taxpayers’ money. For instance, the department is not always giving us as taxpayers the bang for our buck we should expect. Weapons systems are taking longer to develop, costing more than promised and not performing as well as advertised. This must change.
- We need to use all the tools at our disposal. It is imperative that we continue to play a role in preserving global order and promoting safety and prosperity when and where we can. But we don't need to shoulder this burden alone or rely exclusively on our military - we have a host of allies who share our interests and more tools at our disposal to accomplish our objectives than any other country.
I also believe that we should be judicious before employing the awesome power of America’s military and sending our fighting men and women into harm’s way on our behalf. Our military is but one element of our national power; we have significant resources, such as our economic strength, our global competitiveness, and our diplomatic power that allow us to secure our interests.
The military is also struggling with issues unrelated to funding. The plague of sexual assault within the ranks must be wiped out. No service member should have to fear for their own safety while they are already risking so much for our nation. These despicable acts of violence don’t just greatly harm victims – they threaten good order and discipline and our personnel readiness. The department along with Congress has taken positive steps recently to address this issue, and Congress must exercise vigilant oversight as new reforms are implemented and be ready to implement changes as required to assure accountability.
Working together toward a bright future
There’s an old saying that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” Defense and national security are areas where Democrats and Republicans must work together.
When asked recently what the biggest threat to the United States was, our former Secretary of Defense to Presidents Bush and Obama, Bob Gates, didn’t say Iran or North Korea. He said it’s the inability of our political leaders to come together on bipartisan, long-term solutions to the very real problems we have. The security of our great country is too important to fall victim to partisan bickering.
Elected officials in Washington need to work together to grow our economy because the foundation of our national security is a strong, stable economy. Controlling federal spending and reducing the debt, investing in education and research and development, and simplifying the tax code - these are the priorities that will play a large role in determining our economic prosperity and thus our security.
I believe that our best days are in front of us. For all our challenges, the United States still enjoys tremendous advantages. Our economic strength is growing and our military remains without peer. Democrats and Republicans must work together to shore up the foundation of our military strength, our economy, by promoting American innovation and creativity and investing in our human capital. The men and women we ask to defend our great nation deserve nothing less.