Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
This week I voted with 339 of my colleagues in the House to pass the Department of Defense funding bill, an important piece of legislation that pays our men and women in uniform, provides them with the best equipment available, and ensures our nation is prepared should we be required to fight future conflicts around the world.
At $598.8 billion this bill represents a vast amount of money. In tough economic times it is even more important that we hold every federal agency accountable for taxpayer dollars. That is why I have publicly called for a full-scale audit of the Department of Defense in order to ensure the American people’s hard-earned tax dollars are being spent responsibly. It is no secret that there is plenty of waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the federal government. This certainly applies to the Pentagon as well and rooting out these inefficiencies helps ensure our military is the strongest in the world.
While we must hold this agency accountable, I do not believe our military should bear the brunt of funding cuts. Our service members operate in every climate and time zone imaginable, both afloat, in the air, and on shore; we must continue to provide them with the support they need to keep themselves and our nation safe. As recent events in Ukraine and Iraq demonstrate, uncertainty abounds around the world today more than ever.
A strong national defense helps to balance against threats exactly like those we face in Iraq. Recent events, and the fact that the number of terrorist attacks by al Qaeda and its affiliates have increased from around 100 in 2007 to over 900 in 2013, counters the notion that terrorist groups are in decline. It is tragic to see the gains made by the sacrifice of so many American service men and women be squandered. A failure to lead calls into question our commitment to being a force for peace in the region. I hope the president will work with Congress and our allies on short-term solutions to stem the expansion of ISIS immediately, but will also look at ways to engage and expand the role of the Iraqi government and security forces in combating long term threats.
Given my position on the Homeland Security Committee, I continue to be particularly concerned with the large number of Westerners that are engaged in combat in Syria and Iraq and the effect their return has around the globe. With estimates of over 3,000 Westerners engaged in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the outcome has implications not only on United States interests abroad, but our safety right here at home. The potential return of battle trained and hardened terrorists is a threat that is difficult to detect, track, and prevent should we fail to stop them overseas. Engaging with our allies in the region and around the world now to prevent the creation of a new safe haven and stem the growth of terrorism must be a top priority for American leadership in the coming days. This week’s vote provides our nation with the tools that we need and I was proud to support it.