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Will US do the right thing on defense spending? Beijing, Moscow and Tehran watch and wait

OpinionWill US do the right thing on defense spending? Beijing, Moscow and Tehran watch and wait

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The eyes of Beijing, Moscow and Tehran are keenly focused on Washington right now. In each capital, leaders want to see whether our democratic system can overcome challenges to the basic functions of government, including funding our military. 

In December, President Biden signed the annual defense bill into law, authorizing the Defense Department over $840 billion to defend our nation and support our troops and military families. That bill passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Congress has yet to pass the funds DOD needs to put that law into action. 

As a result, nearly halfway through our fiscal year, the U.S. military is operating under our fourth extension of stopgap funding measures, which are themselves half-measures. Their restrictions rob us of critical time to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world – time that the People’s Republic of China, Russia and Iran use to modernize their militaries, coerce their neighbors and attempt to outpace us. No amount of money can buy that time back.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden split image

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Biden (Bloomberg via Getty Images | AP Photo)

Failure to fund the Defense Department in line with the annual defense bill would have serious consequences for America’s security, economy, global standing and democracy. 

‘THIS SCARES ME’: AS CHINA WATCHES, THIS DECORATED VETERAN SOUNDS ALARM ON AN AMERICA STRETCHED TO ITS LIMITS

PRC leaders would welcome U.S. shipyards not speeding their delivery of cutting-edge submarines, and U.S. industry not producing as many long-range munitions as our military needs. They would breathe a sigh of relief to see us underinvest in resilient space architectures and cyber and electronic warfare capabilities. 

And as they struggle to rid China’s military of corruption and make it as professional and proficient as America’s all-volunteer force, they would relish seeing our troops demoralized by Washington not fully funding the training, maintenance, infrastructure, barracks, housing and pay that our service members need.

Compounding these challenges, America risks strategic default over support to Ukraine by not passing emergency national security supplemental funding. Without such funds, it will no longer be a question of whether Vladimir Putin — backed by North Korea and Iran – will be free to rewrite European borders without being held accountable, that will become an absolute certainty. 

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The strategic risks are clear. If he is not stopped, Putin’s appetite for domination will not be sated. Which NATO country might be next? And in the Pacific, Beijing will take note of America’s inaction at a time when the PRC’s pressure campaign against Taiwan continues unabated.

Equally irrational is the failure so far to invest in American jobs, American companies and American production power by replenishing U.S. supplies that have been or would be provided to help Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

These investments are core to the president’s supplemental request, nearly 60% of which will bolster the U.S. defense industrial base. Our service members need them to deter and defeat threats they face today and for the foreseeable future, from the Red Sea and the Middle East to strategic competition with Beijing. 

RUSSIA PUSHES INTO MORE UKRAINIAN TOWNS, UKRAINE SHOOTS DOWN MORE WAR PLANES

Our competitors want an America divided. But our fellow citizens want their elected representatives to be bold and bipartisan in support of our troops, our allies and our ideals. Our private sector wants to advance our premier global standing in innovation and free enterprise, and continue our investments in American jobs.

As Americans, we believe that only one country on Earth can provide the serious leadership this moment demands. But this belief comes with the responsibility to act.  In the worldwide contest between democracy and autocracy, can the American people count on their leaders to come together?

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Authoritarian repression and statist economies stifle innovation and prosperity, just like they stifle freedom. We know American democracy is the better option. We know it can deliver better results. And we know Congress shares these views. While the clock is ticking, they still have time to act. 

The whole world is watching. History is too.

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