Fischer delivers floor speech on military readiness

Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, took to the Senate floor to deliver the following speech on the importance of investing in our military’s readiness.

The full transcript from today’s speech as prepared for delivery is below:

Mr. President, I rise today to address the state of our military readiness.

We live in an uncertain world, one that is perhaps more unstable than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

As Russia increases its belligerence abroad, and China invests millions in a systematic effort to undermine us, we find ourselves confronted by strategic competitors in new and dangerous ways.

For decades, violent extremism was our number one security challenge.

While the threat from global terrorism remains a priority, the United States and our ideals are now being challenged by nations seeking to reshape the globe according to their own design.

And this is a design that does not include the respect for freedom and democracy that we so deeply cherish.

We must not stand idly by and let the rising tide of totalitarianism and autocracy sweep away the free global order that America and her allies have fought so hard to establish and preserve.

As Americans, it is up to us to meet these challenges head-on. That effort begins here, in the United States Senate.

Every member of this body took an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution. There is no greater service to that oath and to the people we represent than to ensure the defense of the nation.

That is why, in the 116th Congress, we must build on past efforts and continue to make the necessary investments in our military. Doing so will maintain the safety and security of our nation for decades to come.

As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have become deeply familiar with the warnings that senior leaders at the Department of Defense have been delivering for years.

They warn of shortfalls in munitions, soldiers short on training, pilots without adequate time in the cockpit, and facilities that are crumbling from underfunding and neglect.

But in politically charged times, that message sometimes becomes muffled against the backdrop of other debates.

I am concerned that some may not appreciate how serious the issue of readiness has become.

While we took a significant step forward with the funding authorized in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, we cannot fix this issue in a single year.

The depth of the problem is reflected in the very metrics that the services use to measure their ability to fight.

For my colleagues who may be skeptical about the need to make these investments in our military, I would point to the following facts:

In the U.S. Army, the world’s most distinguished ground fighting force, only 50% of Brigade Combat Teams are fully trained.

In the Navy, which protects our nation against threats around the globe and defends free commerce on the world’s oceans, only 30% of ship maintenance has been completed on time since Fiscal Year 2012. Because of this, ships were unavailable for training and operations for thousands of days. This has made the already significant workload placed on sailors even worse, and increases the risk of a catastrophic mishap.

In the Marine Corps, a critical expeditionary force that is essential for 21st century combat, limitations imposed by reduced training hours and a fleet of amphibious ships that has been cut in half since 1990 have impacted its ability to fight a major conflict.

In the Air Force there are 30% fewer airmen and 39% fewer aircraft today than during Desert Storm. With an average fleet age of 28 years, our airmen have a tall task of defending against a range of cutting edge threats.

And across all services, the physical infrastructure, which comprises everything from soldier’s barracks to runways, has become badly dilapidated. An average of one in four military facilities receive a poor or failing grade.

 Mr. President, this is unacceptable.

Not simply because it means that we may not be prepared to defend ourselves should we need to fight against a nation that seeks to harm us, but because it is our front line soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who suffer the consequences when we don’t address readiness.

Tragically, it is our men and women in uniform, serving day in and day out, on holidays, at home, and abroad, who are put at risk if we do not make the collective decision in this body to support our military by providing them the necessary funding.

These are problems we can fix, but it is going to require us to work together and find common ground to ensure that America’s military remains the most capable and professional force the world has ever known.

As we debate today in the U.S. Senate, hundreds of America’s sons and daughters are standing the watch, on every continent, protecting and defending our way of life.

They are stationed across oceans, in arid deserts, in dense jungles, and here at home.

No matter what happens, we know that they are serving faithfully each and every day to safeguard our liberty and our freedom.

It is time for us to show them they are not alone, and that the U.S. Senate has their backs.

Mr. President, let’s keep working together so that this year is remembered as one in which despite our other differences, we agree on this:

That our men and women in uniform should have the resources they need to fulfill their mission, and that we will continue to provide for a strong defense of the United States of America.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.