Our defense budget gap threatens America’s security

Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, the United States, and other nations, have been helping the Ukrainians resist by sending them billions of dollars of military equipment. 

I have supported these efforts and am open to sending even more. While we as a country have stood up and led on this issue, I feel in many respects, since the end of the Cold War, we’ve gone adrift. This current crisis in Europe has shed an even bigger light on our own military shortcomings. 

We are woefully unprepared to take on China and Russia head-to-head. Both have been heavily investing in new technologies and capabilities to achieve their particular goals. While Russia is struggling in Ukraine, they still have a massive stockpile of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems.  Meanwhile, here in America we have just been pushing the status quo and trying to play catchup, i.e. hypersonic weapons. 

While I certainly hope we never have to become involved in a war with either, military war games show us performing badly, and in some scenarios, downright losing. 

It doesn’t help that America showed weakness with President Obama’s “red line” in Syria, offered no significant push-back to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and President Biden hastily evacuated Afghanistan in a humiliating fashion. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were watching closely.   

We have time to correct these shortcomings, but it’s later than we think. 

As a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, I am calling for a dramatic increase in our defense budget. It’s time. Our current spending is just over 3 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Our current spending of almost eight hundred billion a year on defense is not even close to meet the challenges we have coming at us from China and Russia, North Korea and Iran. 

Since the end of the Cold War, we have averaged around 4.4 percent of our GDP on defense spending. During the Cold War, it was closer to 8 percent.   

I believe we are facing even greater challenges now than during the Cold War.  This difference between our current 3 percent of GDP and our average of 4.4 percent of GDP is what I call our “Security Gap.”   

This “Security Gap” is keeping us from maintaining our leadership role. This “Security Gap” is keeping us from staying at least a generation ahead of our foes in technology, let alone keep up with them. 

This “Security Gap” is keeping us from paying our men and women in uniform wages that compete better with the private sector.   

This “Security Gap” is keeping us from modernizing our nuclear forces. It is keeping us from building the naval resources we need to stay ahead of China. It is keeping us from accelerating our missile defense technologies, and from accelerating our offensive and defensive capacities in cyberwarfare.   

Peace through Strength should once again be our focus. More than 100 years ago Theodore Roosevelt understood this when he said speak softly but carry a big stick. We must ensure that our military is the most powerful and most capable on the planet by leveraging our technological capabilities. 

We must not only fund and accelerate development of new technologies such as hypersonics, advanced lasers, advanced missile defenses, smarter drones, etc., we must also increase our production of conventional weapons. At the end of the Cold War, we had $21 billion worth of weapons in our inventory. Today, that amount is down below one billion. We already have shortfalls in key conventional systems needed for Ukraine, and we are at least a year behind in fulfilling weapons deliveries to Taiwan

The United States must work towards the domination of warfighting domains such as space, cyber and artificial intelligence. This includes fully funding Space Command and making sure we dominate in space. Space Command and Space Force are some of the greatest ways for us to achieve new levels of superiority over the Chinese and Russians. 

We also have not spent nearly enough money on U.S. Cyber Command. Their main mission has been to counter cyber threats to the homeland. But their capabilities to launch offensive operations have been woefully underfunded. Our cyber capabilities must remain the most robust in the world with a myriad of options for our cyber commanders to deal with any threat, anywhere. 

We must also begin to strengthen our old alliances like NATO and to continue to make new ones in Southeast Asia. China is working relentlessly to build new alliances around the world, in particular the continent of Africa.  The Chinese have invested billions of dollars in infrastructure in African nations

If America creates leadership vacuums, the Chinese will be more than happy to fill them.   

As long as I’m in Congress I will be fighting to ensure America has the military might to thwart any and all attempts to weaken this great nation. 

We are talking about a significant, but necessary amount of money. I envision by 2026 our defense budget should be closer to $1.1 trillion, instead of the current presidential request for $773 billion.   

In the past, when our nation has come under attack, whether it was Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor, we have all immediately rallied to stand up and defend this nation.  But on both occasions, we found ourselves ill prepared, which left us vulnerable to attack in the first place. 

In the 1970 film about the Pearl Harbor attack called “Tora Tora Tora,” one of the Japanese generals, in referring to the United States, is depicted as saying, “I’m afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant.” 

Well, 80 years later, the world has become far too dangerous for us to ever be caught sleeping again. 

Aderholt represents Alabama’s 4th District and is House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Tags Barack Obama Biden cold war foreign adversaries military budget Obama Theodore Roosevelt

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