Sullivan Criticizes Biden & Schumer for Failing to Prioritize National Defense
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), yesterday criticized President Joe Biden for again proposing an inflation-adjusted cut to the Department of Defense, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for failing to quickly bring the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the floor for a vote. Sen. Sullivan’s remarks on the Senate floor followed a letter he sent with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and 21 other senators calling on Sen. Schumer not to delay the NDAA any further given the myriad of national security crises facing the country. Sen. Sullivan and a bipartisan majority of his SASC colleagues passed the FY 2023 NDAA out of committee in June with a $45 billion higher top-line than President Biden’s defense proposal.
In his remarks, Sen. Sullivan noted that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has testified recently that the current period involves “the greatest threat to peace and security” in the world in his entire career. But Majority Leader Schumer is reportedly pushing consideration of the NDAA, the bill responsible for authorizing programs and resources necessary to respond to national security threats, back to December. Sen. Sullivan said the delay of this legislation, like President Biden’s proposed inflation-adjusted cut to critical defense funding, underscores Sen. Schumer and the Biden administration’s “perilous priorities” that will only embolden America’s adversaries.
Madam President, my colleague from Tennessee was just talking about priorities of this administration and this Senate, and I want to continue on that area of focus, relating to what many of us believe is probably the most important priority we have in the U.S. Senate, and that is defending our Nation.
Budgets are a reflection of an administration's values and an administration's priorities. And as I mentioned, many of us--and I believe on both sides of the aisle--see that the No. 1 priority we should have in the U.S. Senate is making sure we are a strong nation, to defend this great country of ours and to make sure we have the most lethal, well-trained military anywhere in the world, and that we take care of our troops and their families.
But this is not what this administration--the Biden administration--believes at all. In fact, President Biden's budgets clearly not only do not prioritize our military; they put them consistently last. And that is not a one-time thing. This is a pattern with this administration.
Here was the President's proposed budget last year. Take a look at it. We all know it was trillions and trillions. Department of Commerce, 28 percent increase. EPA, 21 percent. Interior, 16 percent--on and on. There are double-digit increases everywhere except--except--in the two Agencies that actually protect the Nation: the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
Last year, the Biden budget put forward a budget that, if it was adjusted for inflation, was almost a 3-percent cut to the Department of Defense.
Priorities matter. This administration has not prioritized our military at all.
Guess who was really pleased by that budget, by the way? The dictator in Beijing and the dictator in Moscow. No doubt when they saw that, they loved it.
Thankfully, the Armed Services Committee, on which I sit, said: Do you know what, Mr. President? With all due respect, this is nuts. We are not going to stand for this.
We put forward in the National Defense Authorization Act last year a 3-percent real increase to the Department of Defense budget. It was very bipartisan in the committee, a complete rebuke to the President of the United States, saying: We don't believe in cuts. We are going to increase. The appropriators, thankfully, did the same.
So that was the Biden administration's prioritization of our military last year.
Now, what happened between last year and this year, when the most recent budget came out? Well, I think a lot of us know, but I am going to talk a little bit about it.
Russia invaded Ukraine, and at an April Armed Services hearing, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, said that the invasion was ``the greatest threat to the peace and security of Europe and perhaps the world in any of my time of 42 years in uniform.''
So this is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying we are likely seeing one of the most dangerous periods anywhere in the world in terms of national security in the last four decades.
That was testimony from the President's own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That is Russia. And, of course, their ally China is also taking incredibly aggressive actions all around the world. They are beginning to outcompete our country on many fronts--critical minerals, energy, technology.
Certainly, Xi Jinping, the dictator of Beijing, has increased China's aggression all around the world--in India, threatening to invade Taiwan, economic aggression toward Australia, snuffing out liberty in Hong Kong.
What else has China done? It is dramatically increasing its defense spending--more than 7 percent this year--increasing a navy that is almost becoming larger than ours.
This is how General Milley, again, put it in a hearing last April:
We are now facing two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, both of whom intend to fundamentally change the current rules-based global order. We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable and the potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing.
So that is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, again.
Now, what do you think the President did, seeing we had this incredibly dangerous period internationally, with his next budget? Last year, as I mentioned, he cut the Pentagon defense budget by almost 3 percent and dead last with Homeland Security in terms of Agencies.
So did he listen to his Chairman? Does he really think it is that dangerous? Let's see.
This is this year's defense budget and other priorities from this administration's multitrillion dollar budget, and, once again, you see the EPA coming in at a 24-percent increase. Commerce, HHS, and Labor are all double-digit--Interior, DOJ.
What about the Department of Defense? It is a 4-percent increase with almost 9-percent inflation. We are talking close to a 5-percent real cut to the Department of Defense. This is outrageous.
Last year, the President put forward almost a 4-percent cut to defense spending. In the interim period, we had one of the most dangerous wars that has happened--certainly in Europe and maybe in the world--in a generation. The President's own Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff come before the Senate Armed Services Committee and say it is an incredibly dangerous time--a period, maybe, in almost 50 years in which we haven't seen so many threats to the international order. And the President does what? He, once again, prioritizes our defense almost dead last--almost dead last. Adjusted for inflation, it is a 5-percent cut.
Now, with this posture hearing for the Secretary of Defense and Chairman Milley, I asked the question: Gentlemen, with all due respect, you just said it is the most dangerous period in almost the last 50 years. How can you come before this committee and put forward a budget that is almost a 5-percent cut to the Department of Defense and our troops?
They didn't have a good answer. The truth of the matter is, I am quite certain that the uniformed military and probably even Secretary Austin do not support this budget, but they are good soldiers. They had to salute the Commander in Chief and try to support it. But we don't have to support it, and I know the American people certainly don't support it. Once again, I do know two people who support it. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping look at this, and this is something they are very pleased with.
Once again, the Armed Services Committee, when we met to mark up the NDAA, voted in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion--23 to 3--to, once again, dramatically rebuke the President in a bipartisan way and significantly increase the top line for the Department of Defense to make sure we have a strong nation and that our troops are taken care of and their families by almost $45 billion over what the President requested. It was a bipartisan rebuke, once again, of this administration that won't prioritize our national security and that keeps putting forward budgets that prioritize the defense of our Nation last.
We also started in this NDAA to course-correct, which we need to do dramatically at the Pentagon. We have had civilian leadership, primarily driven by the Biden administration's far-left nominees, who have not been focusing the Pentagon on its top priority, which is to win our Nation's wars and to make sure we have the most lethal military of any country in the world. So I was able in this NDAA to put forward some amendments that I was glad to get bipartisan support on, that are in the current NDAA, to start a course correction.
First, one of my amendments directs the Pentagon to discontinue any further investment in the DOD-wide effort to root out so-called extremism within the ranks. This has been an obsession of the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, many of whom know nothing about the military. It is an obsession, given the incredibly low rate of extremist activity in our military as determined by the Secretary of Defense's own working group on this topic.
The press didn't write about that because they love to kind of weave into the story that somehow our military is full of extremists. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle play that up too. One Senator, at one point, said 10 percent of the military might be extremist--a ridiculous besmirching of the men and women in our armed services. The actual report from the Secretary of Defense's office found fewer than 100 cases of extremist activity in a total military force of over 2 million people. When you do the math, that is less than .005 percent.
So let me be clear: Extremism has no place in our military and must be rooted out when discovered, but these numbers simply don't warrant the time and investment that our senior military has put into this issue. So, in the NDAA, we have said we are not funding it anymore.
There is a second issue in the NDAA for which I was able to put forward an amendment. The Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force, according to press reports, were starting to devise a policy that would allow each servicemember to veto their duty assignment if they disagreed with the laws and regulations in a State or in a community where they were going to be assigned by the military.
Could you imagine the chaos that would result if every soldier, marine, sailor, or airman could say: ``You know, I don't want to go to California; its regulations on the Second Amendment are overly burdensome on my Second Amendment right,'' or for any other reason?
So we said, in the NDAA, a policy that gives service men and women the ability to veto their assignments based on whether they want to go somewhere or not is not the way our military is going to operate. That has been nipped in the bud.
Finally, there is a very simple amendment that I put forward that just provides clarity to the men and women of the Department of Defense. All it does is remind them of what their job is. The military is too often asked to do so many different things--to focus on climate change and to focus on so many other issues. The military has one job: to provide combat-credible military forces needed to deter our adversaries, to protect the security of our Nation, and to win our Nation's wars when called upon to do so.
I put forward an amendment that said just that: Here is your priority, and here is what you are supposed to do. It is needed because of all of the things that our top civilian leaders are now telling the troops they should be focused on. They should be focused on prevailing in a war if they are called on to do so, and that is what my amendment did. Believe it or not, a number of Senators voted against it, but that also made the Defense Authorization Act this year.
In addition to significantly increasing the Department of Defense's authorized budget, we are starting to, once again, get the military focused on their primary job: lethality and winning wars.
So we need to bring the NDAA to the floor. We have passed it 66 years in a row. As I mentioned, the administration's priorities are clearly not with regard to national defense and our military. We can tell by the budget that has been put forward. In the Senate, priorities are often determined by the time on the floor to get a piece of legislation moving. It is clear to everybody who has been here that the majority leader does not prioritize the military in the same way that the President of the United States doesn't.
We passed the NDAA in June--the Armed Services Committee did--in a huge bipartisan vote. The House passed its NDAA in the House in July. So we are waiting to bring up one of the most important pieces of legislation we work on every year: the legislation that sets the policy and funds our troops and their families.
Where is it?
Senator Schumer, where is it? When are we going to bring it up?
You have Democrats and Republicans who are looking at this floor time in September, saying: We need to bring up the NDAA.
The rumor, right now, is that the majority leader plans to bring it up in December.
Think about that, America.
I don't even know what we are doing right now on the Senate floor--minor nominations. We should be bringing up the NDAA to protect this country and to make sure the men and women in our military know we have their backs. Right now, nobody has any idea--maybe the majority leader does--as to when we are actually going to bring this most important bipartisan piece of legislation to the floor.
This is why I joined in a letter that we sent out today, led by Senator Tuberville, who serves on the Armed Services Committee with me, signed by 20 of my colleagues. By the way, I know it would have been signed by some Democratic colleagues as well. They didn't want to put their names on the letter, but they feel the same. It says to the majority leader: You control the Senate. You control the priorities of this body. Bring up the NDAA by the end of September.
Here is the letter. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.
Madam President, the letter says:
At the founding of our nation, then-General George Washington penned, ``When the civil and military powers cooperate, and afford mutual aid to each other there can be little doubt of things going well.''
As General Milley said, at one of the most dangerous times in recent history, it is vital that our civil and military powers cooperate.
What we need to do in this body right now is get back to the important work of bolstering our economy, of fighting inflation, of bringing down energy costs, of unleashing American energy, and, most importantly, of passing the NDAA so we can bolster the national security of this great Nation in very dangerous times.
I call on the majority leader, along with 20 of my colleagues and some of my Democratic colleagues, to bring the NDAA to the floor and not wait until the end of the year, which is what we hear he is planning to do.
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