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Keeping Our Nation Safe

April 24, 2017
Weekly Columns
This past week marked the twenty second anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. That day is still fresh in my memory. At the time, it was and still remains the largest and most deadly act of domestic terror the United States had ever suffered. I, like so many other Americans, wondered how could something so horrible, so unthinkable occur in America’s heartland? Sadly, it wasn’t the last time that America witnessed terror on our soil.
When the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed on April 19, 1995, 168 people died, including 19 children who were in the building’s day care center. Nearly 700 others were injured and hundreds of buildings near the blast were damaged or destroyed. Despite the shock and grief that washed over our state and nation, the rescue and recovery efforts began immediately. Oklahomans were extremely thankful for the brave efforts from our first responders who put aside their own sorrow and heartbreak and dedicated their efforts to help the survivors and comfort the families who lost loved ones.
Six short years later, the unthinkable happened again when terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and deliberately crashed them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center Towers in New York. A fourth plane was headed towards Washington, D.C., when the passengers overtook the terrorists, and the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
At the time, these terrorist attacks were comparatively rare. People all over the world were shocked at the barbarity of deliberate attacks on innocent civilians. While we will never become desensitized to such cowardly acts of terror, the world has come to the realization that terrorism isn’t random, and the most recent attacks will not be the last. Today, terrorism is more organized. The attacks are well planned out and targeted at specific people and nations. As a result, significant changes have been made to our security efforts at home and abroad.
While the threat of terrorism is higher than ever, our nation is certainly more prepared today than it ever has been before. Our national security intelligence is better, our internal domestic security is tighter, and our first responders are better trained to detect potential acts of terror before they occur. Unfortunately, the only area in which we are not stronger than ever before is in our ability to combat growing threats of terrorism at home and abroad through the use of our military.
To be clear, our soldiers are still the best trained and best equipped of any other fighting force in the world. Our vulnerability lies in the fact that over the past several years we have sharply reduced the size of our military to the point where we now have the smallest U.S. military since World War I. The reductions in defense spending means we have fewer soldiers, fewer ships, older airplanes and, consequently, reduced fighting power.
With rise of groups like ISIS and lone wolf attacks in Europe, it is imperative that our national security and defense capabilities are restored to a level commensurate to the threats we face. Accordingly, I have supported and will continue to support President Trump’s efforts to increase the size and capability of America’s military. The sustained reduction in defense spending over the past several years has left us without the capability to confront our enemies whenever, and wherever necessary. This must change.
For the past eight years President Obama consistently requested less money for defense spending than his own Defense Secretaries asked for. Additionally, his foreign policy was all too often one of appeasement, or of drawing “red lines,” and then failing to act when said lines were crossed.  
It’s safe to say that with just a few short months in office, President Trump has demonstrated that the United States will no longer stand idly by when our national security interests are threatened. When the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against its own people, America reacted. When our intelligence forces discovered a large underground ISIS base in Afghanistan, the United States took it out. This President understands that terrorists cannot be negotiated with, or otherwise appeased. The only thing the terrorists understand is violent attacks hurting the lives of the innocent. We must do everything in our power to give the President the tools he needs - including an Authorization for the Use of Military Force - to fight and win the war on terror.