Stronger defense with fiscal responsibility

By Post & Courier

On issuing his National Security Strategy paper last year President Donald Trump declared that the nation faces “an extraordinarily dangerous world.” Congress agrees, and this week, for the second year in a row, lawmakers took an important bipartisan step toward correcting major weaknesses in our defense posture – and also provided some good news to South Carolina employers.

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2019 sailed through the Senate on Tuesday with a vote of 87-10, clearing the way for a funding bill that will follow later this month. It authorizes the Pentagon to spend $716 billion in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, an increase over the president’s request, mainly for shipbuilding that allows the Navy to begin work on 13 new hulls and start a second Ford-class aircraft carrier. That is a major advance for the service, which looks to add 75 combat ships in coming years.

In the new strategic environment facing the United States, with China’s threat to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the pressure it puts on American allies, stronger naval forces capable of projecting power in Asian waters should be a major priority.

Since President Trump’s election, much public attention has been focused on Russia’s challenge to U.S. democracy. But while Russia is modernizing its conventional and nuclear forces, it is at a serious disadvantage in national wealth and manpower to NATO, provided our European allies pull their weight in the alliance. China represents a more immediate challenge.

The new defense authorization act takes notice of this, but it ducked a confrontation with the administration by deleting a provision, opposed by Mr. Trump, that would have punished the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions on North Korea and Iran.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Armed Services Committee that, along with the House, developed the authorization bill, points out that it contains a number of measures affecting South Carolina, including new construction at Shaw Air Force Base, Fort Jackson, Parris Island and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. There is also funding for a new Air Force trainer, a competition in which Lockheed-Martin’s Greenville facility is a major contestant, for production of a new Army howitzer program built in part at BAE Systems’ Aiken plant, and new orders for machine guns from FN in Columbia.

At the national level the bill authorizes an increase in Army manpower, one reason for Fort Jackson’s new trainee barracks. And it increases military pay 2.6 percent.

A handful of Senate votes against the bill came from budget hawks such as Rand Paul, R-Ky.

They have a point. Until Congress addresses the long-range gap between revenues and spending built into the federal budget, all additional spending must be borrowed, and the increasing debt will gradually become a major national liability, sapping not only the nation’s economic strength but its military might as well.

China, which plays a long game, can see the dangers we run because of deficit financing. We need a president and a Congress with equally clear foresight determined to find a solution.

This article provided by NewsEdge.