Rep Jim Banks: Trump should tout achievements in rebuilding U.S. military at State of the Union

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Washington, February 3, 2020 | comments

The following op-ed appeared on on February 3, 2020.

During this year’s State of the Union, President Trump is expected to contrast his record of productivity with the Democrats’ crowning achievement; a wasteful, partisan impeachment.

The only question for President Trump is, where to begin? Despite unprecedented obstruction, President Trump has appointed a record number of originalist judges, steered the U.S. economy to new heights and re-written the rules of global trade on fairer terms.

The importance of these policy victories cannot be overstated. But President Trump should use the opportunity to highlight an under-reported, but perhaps his most important, accomplishment: Rebuilding the U.S. military. Over the course of the impeachment trial, Democrats frequently appealed to the supposed “national-security risk” posed by a Trump presidency. This administration’s record exposes that talking point for what it is—a hysterical and disingenuous smear.

Our military preparedness is one of the most significant achievements of the Trump administration. And to do it, he’s worked with Republicans and Democrats to deliver a bipartisan defense budget each year.

It’s been an uphill battle. You see, President Obama was overseeing the managed decline of a world superpower. Obama’s foreign policy was one of retreat: ceding the Middle East to Iran, letting China exert its influence in Asia, Africa, and South America, and treating the European Union with undeserved authority.

But, delivering on his promise to Make America Great Again, President Trump has turned this narrative around by restoring our military and advocating for U.S. policies on the international stage.

President Trump inherited a military weakened by budget cuts and sequestration during the Obama years. Our equipment was aging and becoming dangerous for our troops to operate.

These aren’t just talking points. I drove old vehicles and used aging equipment when I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014-15.

Moreover, we weren’t preparing for the future. We were losing our technological advantage to China and Russia. We were lagging behind in key areas like cyber defense, missile defense, and space. Defense experts were warning the U.S. may “struggle to win, or perhaps lose” war against our adversaries.

China poses the biggest threat to long-term U.S. national security interests, by far. As I’ve served as co-chair of the Future of Defense Task Force on the House Armed Services Committee, this has become crystal clear to me and our team. By January 2017, China had: Infiltrated our universities, stolen billions in American intellectual property, slipped propaganda into the halls of Congress, poached bureaucrats with security clearances to work for their tech companies and decimated our manufacturing and steel industries with economic warfare. They’ve also now developed a hypersonic nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. within 30 minutes.

President Trump wasn’t elected so that the United States could come in second or third to China or Russia. Americans voted for Trump because they wanted to “win so much they’d get tired of winning.”

We’re very quickly getting back on track. Each year since his inauguration, Trump has worked with Republicans and Democrats to deliver historic defense budgets that have provided a much-needed boost to our armed forces – replete with pay raises for our troops. We’ve invested in crucial equipment like F-35s, F/A-18, and F-15EX combat aircraft. We’ve updated Blackhawks, Apaches, Chinooks and King Stallions. We have new Abrams tanks and Stryker combat vehicles. We are building Columbia-class submarines, a guided missile frigate and amphibious ships, hypersonic weapons, and sonobuoy technologies. We authorized a Space Force, and we’re rebuffing cyberthreats from Chinese tech companies like Huawei. We are investing in 21st-century technologies like artificial intelligence and 5G.

These are monumental achievements that the president and Congress can be proud of. These achievements were passed with bipartisan congressional support at a time where partisanship has seeped into every other area of life in Washington.

It’s not just Americans watching the State of the Union. Our enemies will be tuning in. So will freedom-loving citizens of Hong Kong, Taipei, Tehran and Beirut who look to the United States as a beacon of light in their fight against oppression and despotism. After a divisive, quixotic impeachment battle, President Trump should deliver a unifying speech of hope and peace to all those watching and highlight perhaps the most significant achievement of his administration – rebuilding the U.S. military and restoring U.S. leadership.


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