Senator Wicker: There is Really No Time to Waste, We Need to Get Started This Year

Announces he will offer an amendment to increase the defense budget topline

June 5, 2024

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor to continue the conversation he has started on our national spending priorities. The remarks were Senator Wicker’s first public comments since his defense investment plan was rolled out last week, the “21st Century Peace Through Strength: A Generational Investment in the U.S. Military.”

In his remarks, Senator Wicker upgraded his charge from starting a national conversation about the diminishing state of U.S. military readiness to the need for defense investment now.

During those remarks, Senator Wicker formally announced he will introduce an amendment next week to increase the defense budget topline during the Senate Armed Services Committee consideration of the Fiscal Year 2025 National Defense Authorization Act.

Read Senator Wicker’s remarks as delivered below or watch them here.

Mr. President and my colleagues, for too long, political leaders have shied away being honest and having a difficult conversation with the American people about our national security.

Elected officials have kicked the can down the road, failing to tell the country just how dangerous the world has become. It is past time to confront this issue.

Many Americans do not know that the safety we enjoy has been secured by a global network of U.S. military bases, diplomatic efforts, and international coalitions, as well as massive amounts of equipment and ammunition. We’ve taken our security for granted, not knowing that much of it has been enabled by a previous, once-in-a-generation investment made decades ago.

President Ronald Reagan led Congress to rebuild the U.S. military in the 1980s. And I will hasten to add that it was a bipartisan Congress who joined President Reagan in this effort. And Americans have been living off that investment ever since.

Because of those efforts, we’ve rested easy under the umbrella of overwhelming military superiority. Today, though, our military strength is diminishing to dangerous lows – dangerous lows. That umbrella of security has become a false sense of security.

The U.S. Navy is the smallest and oldest it has been in over eight decades – eighty years. Our Air Force is shrinking. Much of our military infrastructure is out of date. This is a fact, and it is no secret. Time and again, U.S. military leadership comes before Congress and tells us we are facing the most dangerous security environment since at least the Cold War, if not since World War II.

Most Americans don’t know that we are long overdue for a replenishment – for a generational replenishment – of our weaponry. We have delayed updating our military, even as China has gotten closer and closer to matching our military might.

The news gets even worse: China is actually multiplying its strength by spearheading a new axis of aggression, joined by Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

So far, China has not moved against us because its dictator, Xi Jinping, knew he would lose. But just over the horizon, he might have reason to feel differently.

We in Congress must tell the American people what is at stake.

Failing to deter China would immediately trigger a global economic depression. Losing to Beijing would extend the hardship, darkening the course of the entire 21st century.

I’m not trying to be alarmist. But we need to be honest. This bleak future is possible, but not inevitable.

I recently introduced a detailed plan to rebuild American military might and restore our ability to deter threats. It would be a down payment for our future.

And it would be expensive. Many worthwhile things are expensive. But it would be far less costly than war.

Political neglect has put us in this vulnerable position. It does not have to be this way.

My goal is to launch a much-needed conversation about how we can turn the page on that complacency – and to get started right away with corrective action.

I’ve been inviting my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join in this discussion. I’ll continue to extend that invitation.

But there’s really no time to waste.  We need to get started this year.

We can do so next week, Mr. President, when the Armed Services Committee in the Senate begins the NDAA markup – the National Defense Authorization Act. During our meetings, I will introduce an amendment to raise the level of this year’s defense investment significantly.

My amendment will be an opportunity for the kind of debate for which this chamber is renown. In considering national spending priorities, we have thought of ourselves as hamstrung by spending caps, but we simply have to dream bigger when it comes to our vital national security.

I hope this debate will lead to a defense topline number that meets the moment.

President Reagan’s buildup kept the peace and won the Cold War, and it did so without firing a shot. The future can be just as peaceful and secure for our children and our grandchildren. But it’s time we made that investment in the future.

Thank you, Mr. President.