Providing for the common defense is Congress’s most important responsibility. It is among the first legislative powers listed by our Founders in the U.S. Constitution. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am dedicated to fulfilling that responsibility by ensuring our military remains the strongest in the world.
The committee’s recent hearing on the Department of Defense’s budget provided an opportunity to begin to do just that. The hearing was also a reminder that national defense remains an area where my colleagues and I can and will work across the aisle.
An Increasingly Dangerous World
The President’s $750 billion topline defense budget request meets the military’s needs in a changing and increasingly dangerous world. The request is informed by the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the first such document produced by the executive branch in over a decade and a welcome sea change in our military mindset.
Budget sequestration during the Obama presidency seriously harmed our military, delaying equipment repairs, hobbling the Pentagon, and endangering our troops at a time of rising threats. The National Defense Strategy is a blueprint to rebuild our military and prepare for the challenges ahead, including those posed by our chief geopolitical rivals Russia and China, as well as North Korea, Iran, and violent extremism.
This is not a plan of confrontation. It is a strategy that will empower America to defend ourselves and win globally.
The Navy’s Central Role
A powerful Navy is a crucial part of this effort. After years of neglect by the previous administration, I was encouraged when the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included my “SHIPS Act,” making it the official policy of the United States to build a 355-ship Navy. Our strengthened fleet, as designed by our admirals and generals around the world, will meet our strategic needs, protect our nation, safeguard global supply chains, and reassure our allies.
At the hearing, I raised concerns about the Pentagon’s delay in procuring LHA-9 and Flight II LPDs, amphibious assault ships made in Pascagoula that enable sailors and U.S. Marines to launch close-range attacks.
The Navy has just 32 such ships, yet its force structure assessment calls for
38. In response to my question, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told the Committee this increase is “critical” to compete with China.
With the recent announcement by Huntington Ingalls Industries that it is prepared to make the amphibious assault ships three years ahead of schedule, and with $350 million already appropriated for construction, I look forward to working with defense officials to address this shortfall in a timely and cost-effective manner. The new LHA-9s and Flight II LPDs will add to Mississippi’s history of supporting our nation’s security.
Many veterans, men and women currently serving, and their families call Mississippi home. Our manufacturers and builders of radar and missile defense systems, helicopters, drones, ships, and more provide our troops with the equipment and supplies they need.
And our military bases and installations are vital to our state’s proud contributions to this new buildup across the globe.