Sen. Rick Scott: We must reinvest in the military, our greatest asset

May 8, 2019

Washington Examiner
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
May 8, 2019

America is blessed with the protection of the strongest military in the world. Our men and women in uniform are true heroes — they risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms and our way of life.

They embody legendary Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s warning that “no man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”

For decades, we’ve invested in building our military into the most lethal fighting force in the history of the world. Our military provides not only for the safety of our country, but also leads in supporting our allies and protecting freedom and democracy across the globe.

As governor, I made it my mission to turn Florida into the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation, and we succeeded. We championed important legislation and funding to support priorities that matter most to Florida's military families, and awarded more than 14,500 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal.

I served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and my adopted father was one of the few who made all four combat jumps in the 82nd Airborne during World War II. Meeting fellow veterans was one of my favorite jobs as governor. I heard stories of service and sacrifice, of hardship and honor. I was able to pass along the thanks of a grateful state to the those who deserve it most.

Florida has 20 military bases and three unified commands, more than almost any other state. As governor, I met regularly with Florida’s base commanders to see what support the state of Florida could provide and what I personally could do to support their missions and their troops. As senator, I am continuing to host base commander meetings to ensure we address their needs.

We live in a dangerous world. There is always more we can do, and we must avoid complacency. Our military readiness was diminished by budget cuts and the sequester under President Barack Obama, which arbitrarily reduced defense spending across the board. I campaigned on a plan to Make Washington Work. The dysfunction that marks our nation’s capital has many consequences, but a significantly weakened military is the most dangerous.

Our military superiority is never guaranteed, and we face new and mounting threats in an increasingly dangerous world. Russia and China, for example, continue to build up their militaries with a single goal in mind: dominate the world stage. To avoid a national security emergency, we must act now. That’s why, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m fighting to match President Trump’s request of $750 billion in defense spending. I’m also working to secure $17 billion in disaster relief funding, which will help rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base following the devastation of Hurricane Michael.

For our heroes, I’m fighting to secure a pay raise for our men and women in uniform. I’ve also sponsored the Pay Our Coast Guard Act to make sure military pay is never affected by a government shutdown. Under current law, the Coast Guard is the only branch that doesn’t get paid during a shutdown. That’s wrong, and we need to immediately fix this.

These are good first steps, but Congress and the Department of Defense have to do more to ensure we build and sustain the overwhelming military might that America expects and deserves.

I will never lose sight of one of the most important roles I have as a senator: to protect and serve the families of our nation. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to ensure we are adequately investing in America’s greatest asset — the men and women of our armed forces.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, is the junior senator of Florida. Previously, he was governor of Florida. Scott is on the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He served in the Navy as an active duty radar man aboard the USS Glover.