U.S. Rep. Steve Knight: Time to provide for the common defense

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Let’s make this clear: the United States military is the strongest and most capable fighting force in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, we have enjoyed uncontested military supremacy over our rivals, along with the diplomatic leverage and economic security that coincides it.

However, this seat at the top is increasingly in jeopardy and will be usurped if Congress and the Administration fail to act. The world cannot afford to have this position ceded to a nation without our own moral obligations or political accountability. We as a nation must invest in ensuring American military dominance. Future generations depend on it.

In a world with increasing aggression from North Korea and Iran, a resurgent Russia and China, and stateless terrorist organizations, it defies all logic for a superpower to shrink or disinvest in its defense. Yet this is exactly what has happened in America over the past decade.

Our Air Force is the smallest it has ever been; with less than half of the number of squadrons we had in 1991. Our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War One, forcing our sailors and ships to ignore vital maintenance and training schedules to meet increasing mission obligations. This has contributed to the tragically fatal collisions that not only have taken two ships out of circulation, but more importantly led to loss of invaluable American lives. Our Army, which is meant to be the backbone of our ground war-fighting capability, has been forced to shut down 15 brigade combat teams with only a fraction of the remaining units prepared to respond to an immediate threat.

The fact of the matter is that as a result of this neglect, our men and women in uniform now use outdated and sometimes unreliable equipment, depend on vehicles, aircraft and vessels that are far past their expected lifespans, and deploy without the training and maintenance time needed to remain mission-ready. This gap in resources falls directly on Congress and coinciding Administrations.

While our service members continue to serve honorably and with distinction, it’s time the federal government supports them appropriately. My colleagues and I on the Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act that approves a top-line spending amount of $692 billion. This number is consistent, if not slightly below, the Department of Defense’s past reported requirements to fund war-time operations, system acquisitions and modernization, capability enhancements to compete with near-peer adversaries, and increased pay and benefits for troops and their families.

This bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers and was promptly signed into law by President Trump. However, it is now time to appropriate those authorized funds for what is understood by both parties to be an urgent need.

As Congress fast-approaches the February 8 spending agreement deadline, I urge my colleagues to understand this challenge as our foremost priority during these discussions. For far too long we have asked our troops to sacrifice so much for the defense of our nation while Congress’s gridlock has held up the resources they need to adequately do so. It is time we fulfill at least this part of the debt we owe them. The repercussions if we don’t would be catastrophic.

Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) is the 25th District Representative to the U.S. House.

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