Our Armed Forces
National security is the first responsibility of the federal government. A strong, respected, and highly capable military ensures that America's democratic values, freedoms, and way of life will be protected. On September 11, 2001, International terrorism struck our nation with terrible force, but our nation remains unshaken and our military is strong.
Senator Thompson believes that the strength of our military is the dedicated men and women who serve proudly around the globe, and that we must continue to support them by improving pay, benefits, and quality of life for military personnel.
The federal government must continue to provide the military with the resources its needs to defend our homeland, safeguard America's interests, and protect Americans aboard. However, after almost a decade of neglect, our military still lacks the critical resources it needs to effectively combat the growing threat to our nation.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the strength of our nation's military forces has been reduced from 2.1 million to slightly under 1.4 million active-duty troops. The Army has been reduced from 18 divisions to ten; the Navy from 546 ships to about 300; and the Air Force from 37 fighter wing equivalents to just over 20. Our defense spending in fiscal year 2000 was the lowest, as a percentage of gross domestic product, since the isolationist period preceding World War II.
The Bush Administration and the Congress have worked diligently to arrest the decline and gradually improve the capabilities of our military force. A review of all U.S. military capabilities was undertaken to set the goal of how best to achieve the necessary transformation to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. And since September 11th, the Secretary of Defense has led the effort to transform the way U.S. military forces defend our country. The President's fiscal year 2003 budget proposes $369 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD), with an additional $10 billion, if needed, to fight the war on terrorism, the largest increase in two decades.
Senator Thompson supports these defense increases, but believes more should be done. Many military analysts have expressed concern that our military can barely maintain its current force structure and can not afford to significantly invest in sufficient research and development activities or purchase new equipment to ensure that our military remains the most technologically advanced fighting force in the world. Emphasizing this point is the fact that many of our Air Force's fighter planes are based on designs developed in the 1970s and our land forces are not mobile enough to respond to a global crisis without significant preparation. We have relied on the technological innovations gained and military equipment built during the 1980s, and our failure to invest in new systems is starting to catch up with us. It is time to reverse this trend.
Senator Thompson believes that as new threats arise, the United States must develop new defenses. Combating terrorism has become one of the primary missions of our military. Working in conjunction with our intelligence services and domestic law enforcement agencies, the DoD has taken steps to detect, deter, prevent, and respond to terrorist threats. In addition, as the ballistic missile threat continues to grow, we should be building defenses capable of protecting our country from attack. The Bush Administration has requested $7.8 billion for developing a national missile defense system.
Senator Thompson supports the Bush Administration's funding increases and will continue to look for ways to improve the quality of life for military personnel, develop and buy new weaponry to maintain our technological superiority, and improve military readiness. Above all, Senator Thompson will continue working to support efforts to ensure that our armed forces have the resources to respond forcefully and decisively when they are called into action. Only by taking the actions described above can we ensure that our military is best in the world and that our national security is protected.
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