Wanted: An Independent Voice on Defense

Wanted: An Independent Voice on Defense

By Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)

Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense


Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that he will be an independent voice as the new Secretary of Defense.  He indicated he will not be a rubber stamp for the President and he won’t be pushed around.

In fact, he made several statements about public policy designed to prove his point.  Then, as if on cue, the White House openly disagreed with its own nominee on many of his statements.

Sound familiar?  Just as predecessors Gates, Panetta and Hagel discovered, Secretary Carter will quickly find out that America’s military policy emanates not from the Pentagon, but from the National Security Council at the White House.

And where has the White House taken us?  Under this President’s watch:

- We’ve lost most of Iraq to Iran and the rest to ISIS;

- Iran is very close to developing a nuclear weapon;

- We’re in the process of relinquishing all the gains we’ve fought for in Afghanistan to the Taliban or tribal warlords;

- We have deserted the Syrian people;

- The government we supported in Yemen has collapsed and our Embassy there has been evacuated;

- Released detainees from Guantanamo Bay have “returned to the fight;”

- Libya is now officially a “basket-case;”

- We have basically abandoned Ukraine to Russia;

- At the same time, our defense budget is sliding rapidly to the point where we will soon have an Army smaller than it was before   World War 2, fewer Navy ships than ever before and an Air Force that is smaller than ever and flies older aircraft than at any point  in its existence.

Clearly, Secretary Carter will have his work cut out for him.  As a well-respected professional, we need his “independent voice” to begin to turn these incredibly dangerous trends around.

A good place to start is in Eastern Europe where Ukrainian President Poroshenko has repeatedly asked the Obama Administration to go beyond bandages, tents and night vision goggles and provide lethal aid in their escalating battle with Russia.

It has been said that Vladimir Putin’s goal is “to keep Ukraine out of NATO and keep NATO out of Ukraine.”  In this context, I have written to President Obama three times in the last year urging him to grant “Major Non-NATO Ally” status to Ukraine.  This declaration would allow the U.S. to deliver excess defense articles to the Ukrainian military and enter into bilateral training agreements.  MREs and blankets will not turn the tide against Russia’s military might.  As the Russian military trains and equips insurgents, Ukraine needs lethal assistance to protect its people and preserve its independence.

But so far, calls for arms and munitions to Ukraine have gone unheeded. 

Our nation has long been a reliable force for stability and freedom in the world.  We have done so by supporting our friends, deterring our enemies and acting with certainty and predictability. 

Former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, addressed the House Republican Conference last month.  He said, “Don’t worry about whether people around the world love you. What the world needs is for America to be strong.”

I hope the new Defense Secretary uses his independence to reinforce that notion each and every day for the next two years! 

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