Time to make our military great again

After eight years of our military’s decline, it is a welcome change to have a commander-in-chief who is willing to fight for our men and women in uniform. During President Trump’s recent address to a joint session of Congress, I appreciated hearing his support for a strong national defense and his desire to begin the long process of rebuilding our military. The president’s newly unveiled budget is a step in the right direction, but more is required.

Since the Budget Control Act was signed into law in 2012, our defense budget has been in constant decline. Over this same period, we have witnessed Russia invade and annex Crimea, China construct islands in the South China Sea, and the Islamic State grow into a significant force in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

As the security situation around the world has deteriorated, so has the readiness of our own military. In recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, senior leaders from each of the four branches of our military testified and outlined many of the challenges they are facing.

Each example cited in the hearing presents a unique and troubling challenge that must be confronted. The Army has only one-third of Brigade Combat Teams ready to deploy; the Navy is smaller than it has been in 99 years and it is only able to meet 40 percent of combatant commander’s requests; the Air Force is the smallest it has ever been and will need six or more years to rebuild its readiness; and the Marine Corps continues to spend huge portions of its budget to maintain vehicles that are four decades old, while borrowing spare parts from museum aircraft to keep its aging jets flying.

These are not the marks of a ready force.

Our military requires a significant investment of resources along with predictability and stability in funding if we are going to deter and defeat potential adversaries. As lawmakers approach this year’s budget cycle in Congress, we must take our obligations and power of the purse seriously. This means taking an honest and sober look at the threats we face and then providing the resources necessary to address them.

The last budget submission that was nested within a strategy was in 2012 under then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Unfortunately, the budget proposal presented by President Trump is billions of dollars below the funding levels called for in that 2012 budget and a mere 3 percent increase over the funding requested by President Obama.

We are getting back on track but more is required. Given the diverse threats facing our nation, we cannot delay in rebuilding our forces, and we cannot afford to fail.

Congressman Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) serves on the House Armed Services Committee. This column was first published in the Washington Examiner.

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