Give the military the tools it needs to protect U.S.

Dec 5, 2011 Issues: Military and Veterans

As Thanksgiving approaches and we all turn our thoughts to the many blessings in our lives, at the top of the list for families in Colorado, and across the country, are the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform — past and present.

One of the most essential duties our constitution gives to the Congress is to support the national defense and, for me, that includes honoring our veterans, and ensuring that our fighting men and women have the tools they need to face down the enemies of freedom in the 21st century.

To meet those vital goals, it’s time to bring some Colorado common-sense to the nation’s capital, which is boiling with dueling sound bites over our soaring deficits and crushing national debt. My concern, and my commitment, is to ensure that the security of our homeland and the welfare of our veterans don’t get caught in the cross hairs.

Some, driven by ideology, want to slash and burn their way through the defense budget while others treat it as sacrosanct. Both poles in this conversation are off the mark.

Let’s be clear: there are no sacred cows in our federal budget; no areas are off-limits for smart ideas about tax savings. I’m convinced that we can root out waste in every federal department, including the Department of Defense. If projects in any part of the government are unable to demonstrate real value, it’s time to bring them to a close.

Despite the partisan strife in Washington, we as a people unite around our respect for the men and women in uniform who keep us safe and free every day. As we go through our day, there is precious little that we do as Americans that is not safeguarded by the military.

Respect and gratitude do not end when these men and women end their military service. Because they have protected our lives, and that of our families and our way of life, we owe them a lifetime debt — a very small repayment for the sacrifice they have made. That’s one of the reasons why I am a co-sponsor of the Healthy Vets Act, which would expand care for veterans in rural areas and allow them to receive timely care at facilities are closer to home.

This is critically important for our vets in rural Colorado who can face the often tough challenge of going to the big Veterans Administration hospital in Denver for treatment.

We owe a debt, too, to today’s military. To achieve that, we must be clear-eyed about the threats America faces, and the tools that are required to meet those challenges, and defeat our enemies.

For example, we can and we must support the introduction of the next generation fighter plane. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a needed, cutting-edge aircraft that can replace aging aircraft and keep the United States a step ahead of our adversaries. The F-35 will be serving our nation, and the American people, for decades after those of us in Congress have gone.

In addition to its national security benefits, the F-35 provides economic benefits to Colorado. Statistics show it generates $33 million in annual economic impact for Colorado, including quality high-tech jobs. This is just a part of the 130,000 jobs tied to the project and the $12 billion economic impact across the country.

All of us in Congress have been taking a close look at this new and promising aircraft, which the Pentagon reports is ahead of its testing goals.

We are in a time of serious, and long-overdue, debates about the proper role of government. For many years, both parties have spent too much, and cut too little.

As we move forward, we should keep in mind that our nation and our way of life, rests on the shoulders of our military men and women, who every night when we lay down to sleep, stand guard in defense of our freedom. Our soldiers have our back 24-7.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who have served and those who currently stand in harm’s way. It’s important that we remember their sacrifice, giving them the recognition they deserve, and ensuring that they have the tools they need.