Rick Perry: Our National Defense Has Been Neglected; We Must Change Course

T at Arlingto nBy Rick Perry

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America has entered a time of testing, and our leaders are failing the test.

The Chinese and the Russians are becoming more and more aggressive, working to counter America’s technological edge, on land, by sea, in space and in cyberspace. The world’s largest sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, seeks nuclear weapons. And the leadership of ISIS wants to take the world back to the seventh century, cleansing it of Christian, Jewish and Muslim infidels.

The Obama administration has made grave miscalculations, projecting weakness instead of strength, and wishful thinking instead of making sober assessments based on realities on the ground.

Moreover, the Obama administration and Congress have failed to prioritize military spending, and our preparedness is suffering as a result. After two grueling wars and a weak economy at home, our military is being decimated by major budget cuts.

Because of the failed leadership of both parties — who treated our defense forces as a pawn in a budgetary game of chicken — our armed forces are depleted, our military infrastructure is aging, and our technological advantages are being severely challenged at a time when the world is increasingly dangerous.

We need to change course.

UTAustin_logoThe great lesson of history is that strength and resolve bring peace and stability, while weakness and vacillation bring chaos and conflict. Congressional leaders recently wrote: “In the last three years, the Army’s strength has been cut by nearly 100,000 soldiers. The Navy’s contingency response force is at one-third the level of what it should be. Less than half of the Air Force’s combat squadrons are fully ready. Approximately half of the Marine Corps’ non-deployed units lack sufficient personnel, equipment, and training.” And Secretary Robert Gates’ 2012 budget said we needed to increase defense spending by close to $1 trillion over 10 years. There is bipartisan consensus behind that number. But it is much harder to get bipartisan action.

It is time for a debate about the state of our military and its historic underfunding. The Republican-led Congress is making some progress on increasing defense spending. Yet defense spending in the current budget is still insufficient. If I were President today, I would reframe the entire defense debate: from what do we have leftover to spend on defense to what we must spend to keep America safe.

It is time to tell the truth to the American people that both parties have gutted our defenses rather than impose spending discipline on other areas of government. It is time to get real about the fact that while our enemies are building ships, we are reducing the size of our fleet. That while fanatics are growing their armies, ours is at risk of being reduced to dangerous lows.

This is profoundly personal for me. As a former captain in the Air Force, I know the global good done by those who wear the uniform of our country.

As a former governor, I am acutely aware of the sacrifice made by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

At the height of the surge in Iraq, I must have sent a letter, made a phone call, attended a funeral, or visited a military hospital every week to pay my respects to the bereaved families, or to visit a warrior wounded on the field of battle.

The single greatest factor in creating a world safe for freedom is the heroism of the men and women who have worn the uniform, and who wear it today.

I want to ensure the safety of all of the brave Americans who wear the uniform of this country.

Let no one mistake a call for the rebuilding of our defenses as a call for increased war.

Just the opposite: you avoid war by demonstrating an overwhelming capability to win it.  The relative stability of the Eisenhower and Reagan years prove this very point. The instability of the Obama years prove it just as well.

Rick Perry, the former and longest serving governor of Texas, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served from 1972-1977.

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