November 15, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, today delivered remarks from the Senate Floor on the importance of protecting peace through strong military deterrence and passing the bipartisan 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In his speech, King explained the need to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, support Ukraine as it fights for freedom, and improve resources for America’s servicemembers with pay raises and mental health care.
Beginning his speech, Senator King explained the historic importance of preserving peace through strong military deterrence:
“[The National Defense Authorization Act] is important because the essence of our defense policy since World War II has been deterrence. Deterrence means maintaining the capacity to inflict unacceptable costs on any potential adversary and the will to impose those costs if necessary,” began Senator King. “What we're really talking about in the National Defense Authorization Act is the capacity that we have at our disposal that can impose costs on our potential adversaries such that they will refrain from aggression and initiating a conflict, a conflict which in this day and age would be catastrophic.”
“I would urge anyone who questions this assumption to Google Rhineland, 1936, Sudetenland, 1938, those were places Hitler could have been stopped, not with an enormous expenditure or enormous investment of troops or material, but by almost token resistance from the Western European powers that they utterly failed to do,” Senator King continued. “Had Hitler been confronted earlier before he completely rebuilt the Nazi war machine, World War II could have been avoided and all of those losses – tremendous losses in this country and around the world would have never happened… the only way to avoid war is to be prepared.”
King, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee with oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, continued by sharing the critical need to maintain a modern nuclear deterrent and updating the nation’s “triad” to better meet growing threats like hypersonic weapons.
“Deterrence is also a key to nuclear weapons,” stressed King. “Nuclear weapons haven't been used in a confrontation or a conflict since 1945. Why? Because of the concept of deterrence that those other countries which have them realized that if they are used they will pay an enormous and unacceptable price. That has been the policy of this country for over 70 years and it's worked. It's worked – but it only works as long as the adversary believes that we do in fact have the capacity to inflict that kind of punishment.”
“Deterrence is a matter of credibility and you have to have a credible deterrent in terms of the actual capacity, and you also have to be credible in terms of your will to use it,” Senator King continued. “Indeed, at this point in our history, we're talking about deterring the potential use of nuclear weapons in regard to the Ukraine conflict by Vladimir Putin.”
“Deterrence means that capacity has to be credible and the problem is here in this country, we have allowed our nuclear deterrent to deteriorate and age to the point where we're having to, in effect, rebuild it, not from scratch, but rebuild it substantially all at the same time,” warned Senator King. “The triad: bombers, missiles, submarines – we have to rebuild them and it's happening at the same time and it's expensive. It's because this work was deferred for the prior 25 or 30 years that we're now having to do all three legs of the triad at one time which adds substantially to the defense budget, but it's necessary in order to maintain the deterrent that keeps the peace.”
King continued by laying out how supporting Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Vladimir Putin is key to deterring a future conflict that is “much worse.”
“I don't get a lot of this, but occasionally people say, why send money to Ukraine? Well, Putin has told us who he is. He’s told us he feels the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He wants to rebuild the Soviet Union and Ukraine is the first piece,” said Senator King. “I don't think there is any doubt if he was allowed to march in and take over Ukraine in a matter of weeks without any significant resistance, the next irritant for him would be the Baltics, and then Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Poland.”
“Maya Angelou says, if someone tells you who they are, you should believe them. He has told us who he is: he wants to rebuild the Soviet Union. That's why Ukraine is so important, and that's why what we have done and what we have provided and the leadership this administration and our country has provided to other countries in the world in order to resist that aggression is so important and critical to avoiding a worse – much worse confrontation involving all of our countries down the road,” King stressed. “That's why it is so important."
Concluding his speech, King highlighted key provisions in the bipartisan bill to support America’s servicemembers by providing them better pay, improving the transition out of service, and investing more in suicide prevention.
“There's a raise for the troops. There's more money for the people defending our country, which they deserve in a time of inflation, they deserve a significant raise and that's in the bill,” Senator King concluded. “Another piece that's in the bill that I think is very important in terms of our veterans, and of course we're just coming out of the Veterans Day observance last weekend, is funding and attention in the Defense Department to the transition from active duty service to veteran status. I believe that we should be spending as much, or the Defense Department should be spending as much time, money, and effort on the transition out of the service as they spend on recruiting to bring people into the service. The data is that the tragedy of suicide among our veterans is most acute in the first two or three years after separation, and that's where we should focus additional attention and in fact that's in this bill.”
Earlier this year, Senator King announced that Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 contained a number of key provisions he advocated for to strengthen national security. King worked as Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee to include critical investments that modernize the nation’s nuclear triad and address the threats posed by new hypersonic weapons.
You can watch Senator King’s full floor speech HERE.