Defense: A Constitutional command

Published 8:08 pm Saturday, December 28, 2013

What did you do when you started your day this morning? Perhaps you made a quick stop at Starbucks. Maybe you made plans with your spouse to catch a movie later. Perhaps you went for a long run to train for an upcoming half-marathon or met a client for breakfast at the local diner.

These freedoms and comforts exist largely because we live in a safe nation. In commitment to our Constitution, our nation has placed great priority on a dedication to this well-guarded peace. Over the past 50 years, Department of Defense innovation and technology has made our military the most technologically advanced in the world. Now, in the 21st century, dedication to harnessing top-of-the-line technology is even more necessary.

We live in a post-9/11 society. There are those who seek to do our nation harm by targeting our buildings, our city streets and public events. We know terrorist organizations are actively pursuing chemical, nuclear and biological weaponry. Quite simply, there are those who want to hurt America and rob us of our freedoms.

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Our Founding Fathers knew these freedoms were worth protecting and worth defending. They also knew, as we know today, that one of the realities of having these freedoms is there will always be individuals who want to take them from us.

To lack vigilance in our investment in national security fails a central tenet of our constitutional duty — outlined in the first sentence of the Constitution — to provide for the common defense.

There’s no doubt that reconciling defense spending with our rapidly increasing national debt and deficit is a big task. Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called our national debt this country’s “biggest national security threat.”

There is plenty of waste at the Pentagon, and we need to do our due diligence in making sure every defense dollar is treated as an investment. That’s why I have supported legislation to audit the Department of Defense to ensure that every taxpayer dollar is well spent.

However, we cannot use the national debt as an excuse to jeopardize our national security. Washington can — and must — get its fiscal house in order without cheapening our national security.

Today, the danger of eroding our defense budget stretches beyond the battlefield. The ripple effects don’t just touch our men and women in uniform, federal workers or defense civilians. The losses impact every part of the American way of life — from Americans providing for their families by heading to work every day, to cheering spectators at a marathon.

This is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. As chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and former chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, I work every day with Democrats and Republicans who have a common goal: protect and defend the United States of America.

Democrats and Republicans are committed to making our nation safe and secure. Democrats and Republicans are committed to ensuring our men and women in uniform have the tools they need to serve our nation with courage and honor.

Carl Vinson, the former legislator largely credited with laying the defense foundation that prevailed in World War II, offered the following words that serve as both warning and advice to us today: The most expensive thing in the world is a cheap Army and Navy.

The investments we have made in national security have been invaluable to Americans throughout the existence of our nation. Today, they’re more important than ever.

We cannot make concessions. We must make our technology top-of-the-line. We must ensure our men and women in uniform are the best equipped, best trained in the world. We cannot afford to cheapen our national security.

We are America — the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at