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Hope for the Best,
Plan for the Worst

Column by Senator Trent Lot  - For GulfCoastNews.com       Filed 4/22/05

A key component of President Reagan’s peace through strength doctrine was to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  Even with active diplomacy, we should always hone our military’s technical edge with robust acquisition programs for the latest ships, aircraft, weapons and training, making sure we can defeat any threat, foreseen or unforeseen.  As evidenced in the War on Terror, we have a great military today, thanks in large part to the long-term investments we made during the Reagan years, but we’re not investing or acquiring new equipment like we once did.

Even though we’re currently fighting nation-less bands of terrorists, we must not forget that we still face conventional and nuclear military threats from established nations with armies, navies and air forces as capable as the old Soviet Union.  Given the alarming military buildup in communist China, coupled with threats from Iran and communist North Korea, we’re going to have these challenges for years to come.  That’s why I’m fighting Administration plans to close 25 percent of our military capacity –  including busy training facilities – as well as plans to mothball perfectly good ships, and slow-roll our new shipbuilding programs.

 Closing bases, cutting shipbuilding budgets and downscaling other resources are actions geared more toward short-term budgetary pressures and current security standards than on our anticipated long-term security requirements.  That’s not consistent with peace through strength –  not Reaganesque at all when you consider that our Navy is headed toward having only about 100 ships, down from the 600-ship Navy supported by President Reagan.

Communist China, particularly its naval advances, should cause us all concern.  For three years, the communist Chinese have been conducting a huge naval buildup that could enable them to challenge America’s defensive posture in the Pacific and particularly our democratic friends in Taiwan.  This was almost unthinkable 10 years ago, but today, China has advanced submarines, including nuclear ones.  China launched 13 attack submarines between 2002 and 2004 and also built 23 ships that can transport troops and equipment.  One intelligence official recently noted that “(China’s) amphibious assault ship building alone equals the entire U.S. Navy shipbuilding since 2002.  It definitely represents a significant increase in overall capacity.”

The U.S. in contrast is retiring ships barely 20-years-old, like the groundbreaking AEGIS destroyer USS Ticonderoga, and our Pentagon is considering proposals that could leave only one American shipbuilder to craft our new surface warships.  That’s a bad idea.  Giving a single shipyard every Navy contract, even if it were Mississippi’s own Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipyard, would not be good for the country.  Only a handful of American shipyards remain in business.  If we lose another shipyard and the thousands of skilled shipbuilders that go with it, we soon may have to rely on foreign workers to build our own Navy.  That is unthinkable but not impossible, given this trend.

Now, I certainly don’t equate all Chinese, North Koreans or Iranians with terrorists.  But we must remember that these nations are still dictatorships, with a long history of suppressing freedom and being callous toward human rights and religious freedom.  To the billions of good, freedom-aspiring peoples living under those oppressive governments, we should be sending  messages of support and evidence that America has a long-standing commitment to strength, just like President Reagan did for those once trapped inside cruel, communist systems.       

Pursuing peace through strength, constantly recruiting good people, aggressively building new ships and new planes, and providing the best training –  that was President Reagan’s vision.  Those plans he made for the worst, actually worked for the best.  Would President Reagan respond to new threats by closing bases and shredding America’s naval budget?  No way.  Even if they don’t have a military base or a ship within miles, all Americans should be very concerned about base closures, shipbuilding budgets and America’s long-term military might.  Freedom’s fate, at any given moment, could depend on the state of our military.  (4/22/05)

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email: senatorlott@lott.senate.gov

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