Retweet to agree→ The federal government has many responsibilities. But its first and foremost responsibility is our national defense. pic.twitter.com/O92X1zBmxo— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 18, 2018
WASHINGTON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on military funding and readiness. The address comes ahead of Friday's deadline to extend funding for our military, which Speaker Ryan argues is critical to equip our troops so they can do their jobs. Below are Speaker Ryan's remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Thank you so much, John, and thank you to CSIS for hosting me today.
"This institution has been a leading voice in shaping America’s role in the world for more than five decades. And I cannot think of a more critical time to be here.
"The federal government has many responsibilities. But its first and foremost responsibility is our national defense.
"Today, the United States has the greatest fighting force in the world. Keeping it that way is vital to keeping our country safe.
"But right now, our men and women in uniform are operating under enormous strain, some of which, frankly, is of our own making.
"That is why rebuilding our military is one of the highest priorities of our unified government. I can tell you it is my highest priority today.
"The good news is that this Congress has made a bipartisan commitment to fund our national defense.
"Republicans and Democrats worked together to send a strong national defense bill to the president’s desk.
"And right now, we are engaged in good-faith negotiations to make sure our budget reflects those commitments.
"I am optimistic we will get there, but we cannot allow this work to be layered into or minimized as Washington melodrama.
"We have to be clear-eyed in laying out for the American people why so much is at stake.
"Rebuilding our military is essential to confronting the threats we face—threats that are evolving at an alarmingly rapid pace.
"North Korea is working to develop ballistic missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.
"Iran is marching forward with its quest for regional hegemony by backing terrorism across the globe.
"And what is left of ISIS is trying to figure out how to expand and influence terrorism in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and into the West, including by inspiring attacks here at home—from New York and Boston to Orlando and San Bernardino.
"Then there are those countries that want to remake the world order in their authoritarian image. Russia is trying to drive holes through NATO while threatening some of our closest allies in Eastern Europe, while Chinese aggression continues to stir instability in the South China Sea. And these threats are particularly serious, because allowing Russia and China to upend the post-Cold War order first and foremost affects us here at home.
"Our adversaries recognize our supremacy in the traditional domains of warfare, and are therefore trying to develop capabilities that put our most vital interests at risk, while avoiding our traditional strengths.
"This is not some problem we are projected to face years down the road. It is happening right now.
"This is by far the most complex and challenging global security environment we have seen since World War Two. We know the greatest antidote to that uncertainty is the ability to depend on our Armed Forces to keep the peace.
"But, and this brings me to the second big reason this is so important: we have simply pushed our military past the breaking point.
"Instead of upgrading our hardware, we have let our equipment age. Instead of equipping our troops for tomorrow’s fight, we have let them become woefully underequipped.
"Funding for modernizing the Army has been cut in half in just the past eight years.
"Navy sailors are putting in 100-hour work weeks, and less than half of their aircraft are capable of flying.
"Roughly 80 percent of Marine Corps aviation units lack the minimum number of ready basic aircraft.
"And the Air Force is now at its smallest size in our nation’s history, and the average age of their aircraft is 27 years old.
"The cost of these readiness deficiencies are dire. This is literally costing us lives.
"In total, we lost 80 lives due to training accidents in 2017—nearly four times as many killed in combat. Just think about that for a second.
"And the worst part is that these deaths may have been preventable. There is no excuse for that. We need to do better.
"We ask a lot of our men and women in uniform. We ask them to carry out dangerous missions in dangerous parts of the world. And they do so, putting their own lives at risk, with the utmost courage, bravery, and selflessness.
"They do this because they believe not only in this country, but in the idea of this country: That America remains that shining beacon of freedom, justice, and democracy around the world.
"But in exchange for their service, we make them a sacred promise. We promise that we will give them the tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. And today, quite frankly, we are letting them down. We are breaking that promise. That is shameful.
"So let me clear about what our goals are.
"An adequate budget agreement that fully funds our troops. That means lifting the spending caps that disproportionately hamstring the defense budget, holding our national security hostage.
"The Pentagon cannot plan for the future if it keeps operating under short-term spending bills. The days of budgetary uncertainty and underfunding need to end.
"Doing so will allow us to modernize our forces and maintain a forward presence, bolstered by commanders having the rapid response capabilities they need.
"Twice now, the House has passed an appropriations measure to back up our commitments, but it remains stalled because of opposition from Senate Democrats. They need to stop playing politics with this.
"Our men and women in uniform are not bargaining chips—they are our nation’s best and brightest, who put their lives on the line for us.
"We need to reform the Pentagon too. That means overhauling the acquisition process, facilitating a serious audit of DOD, and finding ways to improve efficiency through innovation and new business practices.
"Chairman Thornberry and his members are championing these issues in the House. In the past two years alone, we have enacted significant bipartisan reforms to streamline bureaucracy at the Pentagon, strengthen the military health care and retirement systems, and improve congressional oversight. This is a great start, but there is more work to be done.
"And we need a new military strategy for the 21st century. That means a military that is more lethal, agile, and robust. Nobody understands this better than Secretary Mattis. And tomorrow, he will unveil a National Defense Strategy that provides a clear, unequivocal plan to ensure our military might never falters. This is the first NDS released in a decade, and it will provide a clear path forward for our national defense.
"But that path will get longer every day that goes by without an adequate budget agreement.
"As I said at the outset, this country has the greatest fighting force in the world.
"And we will always do what is necessary to protect the American people.
"We cannot shy away from the threats we face. We must confront them.
"We cannot shun our alliances. We must strengthen them.
"And we cannot leave our troops unprepared on the battlefield. We must equip them.
"I do not care if you are a Republican or Democrat. Our troops, our military, our national security—these are not partisan issues. When it comes to keeping Americans safe, we are all on the same side.
"So today I am here to ask for your help.
"Help us make this case to the American people.
"Help us get our troops what they need to do their jobs.
"And help us ensure that the United States military remains the best in the world.
"Thank you again for being here. I look forward to our conversation."