United States Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Armed Services Committee discusses the potential impact of the impending defense cuts.
United States Senator Lindsey Graham, [R-SC], Senate Armed Services Committee
Senator Lindsey Graham
In the United States Senate, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham has earned a reputation as a conservative leader willing to tackle the toughest issues facing our nation.
Graham is widely viewed as one of the strongest proponents of a robust national defense and considered a loyal friend to our men and women serving in uniform. A frequent visitor to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq for on-the-ground assessments, Graham has consistently pushed for outcomes in the War on Terror which defend our own long-term national security interests.
Closer to home, Graham has been a leader in balancing the federal budget and reforming entitlements to get our nation’s fiscal house in order. For his work, a prominent national conservative organization labeled him a 'Taxpayer Hero' who puts, “the interests of the taxpayer ahead of politics by consistently voting to cut wasteful spending, reduce the tax burden, and make government more accountable to taxpayers.”
Graham was elected to the Senate in 2002 and reelected in 2008, garnering over one million votes and becoming the top vote-getter in South Carolina history.
In the Senate, he serves on the chamber’s most important committees: Appropriations, which oversees the expenditure of every dollar from the Federal Treasury; Armed Services, which is responsible for all areas of our national defense; Budget, which establishes the blueprint for total government revenues and spending, and Judiciary, which has a broad mandate covering multiple issues ranging from the Constitution to criminal justice to intellectual property law.
Graham was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 as the first Republican from the Third Congressional District of South Carolina since 1877. Prior to his service in the House, Graham compiled a distinguished record in the United States Air Force as he logged six-and-a-half years of service on active duty as an Air Force lawyer. From 1984-1988, he was assigned overseas and served at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany.
Upon leaving active duty Air Force in 1989, Graham joined the South Carolina Air National Guard where he served until 1995. During the first Gulf War in the early 90’s, Graham was called to active duty and served state-side at McEntire Air National Guard Base as Staff Judge Advocate where he prepared members for deployment to the Gulf region.
Graham continues to serve his country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is one of only three U.S. Senators currently serving in the Guard or Reserves. He is a colonel and is assigned as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.
A native South Carolinian, Graham grew up in Central, graduated from D.W. Daniel High School near Clemson, and earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina. He lives in Seneca and is a member of Corinth Baptist Church.
United States Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Armed Services Committee argues that Congress must put a greater emphasis on the importance on preventing military spending cuts. According to Senator Graham, "without National Security, Social Security is an illusion."
Bill Kristol:So we have Lindsey Graham here. (Audience laughs). Now, Im justkidding. Lindsey is of course you all know and has been a leader of some of theissues but particularly thoughtful I think and very courageous on defense andnational security issues. He will also have a distinction, I think he will be theonly US senator after December 31st. When his colleague Jim DeMint steps down, hellbe the only person representing the State of South Carolina. Hell be able to casttwo votes on the floor of the Senate through January and February until he has acolleague who joins himno just kidding, I know thats not the rules. And (audiencelaughs) anyway, Lindsey took time from a very its actually a very busy time in theSenate as you know and hes got a very busy schedule and we really appreciate himjoining us here for a few minutes today, Lindsey. (Audience claps).Lindsey Graham:Well thank you Bill. About the Senate being busy, if were doinganything, I dont know it. (Laughs). So, glad to be with you (laughs), or at leasttalking about doing something. Thanks, Id like two paychecks too by the way. Imgoing to miss Jim. Hes been a strong voice for conservatism at the time when weneeded a strong voice but Michael has always you you really challenge me and othersto think. About budgets and defense, I think the way I look at things is the firstquestion Id like to build upon and Michael brought it up: what is our role in theworld? If were going to be Switzerland, we can do without a lot we have today. But Idont think the world wants us to be Switzerland and I like Switzerland. Theyre greatpeople. Theyre always helping find ways to solve problems. But if you believe thatwere an exceptional nation and theres no substitute for American leadership when itcomes to foreign policy, then one of the tools that every president needs at theirdisposal is to enact foreign policy that makes the world a better place. Andsometimes that requires force, a lot of times it requires the threat of force and atall the times, it requires your enemies who are irrational to believe they willlose.So I would like to start the discussion with a concept that were at war. How manypeople believe were at war? Okay, then when you look at historical spending at thetime of war in terms of GDP, are we on the upper end or the lower end? Were on thelower end. So, if you buy Michael that the nation is at war, then we would need tolook at our defense spending I think in terms of GDP as a consistent measurement.And what could make the argument (clears throat), were on dramatically the low-endcompared to other conflicts. But I will buy this, you could also make the argumentwere going to be Greece as a nation if we dont get our fiscal house in order. So,you have two things going on at the same time. Were about to reach a point where oureconomy is going to stall and fail and China will pass us if we dont get our fiscalhouse in order. And were one political compromise away from dominating the 21stcentury. Dont worry about people buying our bonds or our treasury notes, where elseare you going to go? But we should worry about making promises that we cant affordto keep in the future. And that our economy cannot bear the weight of unreformedentitlement spending and the current discretionary numbers we have.So Michael, if we could come up with an entitlement reform bill that saves ussecurity and medicare and deals with medicaid and sets some spending limits that aremore sustainable, I would entertain going past $487 billion. But the one concept Iwill not entertain is having a military that doesnt make us an exceptional nation.We cannot afford that. The world cannot afford it. And I can tell you fromtravelling the world, people miss America being an exceptional nation because werenot right now when it comes to foreign policy. So as we debate the budget, I thinkwe need to establish that were at war but were also in economic crisis that has tobe dealt with. Secondly, we need to establish the concept, at least from my point ofview, that every budget we pass on the defense side will allow us to continue to bean exceptional nation, the strongest voice for democracy on the planet. And that ourcapabilities are such that no rational foe would want to engage in war with theUnited States because you will lose. So, what number should we pick? Is it 5% ofGDP? Is that a fair number? Well, that would put us on the historical low-end of anation at conflict in terms of spending but I think it would probably give us enoughto do what we are challenged to do in the times on which we live.But before I make any decisions about going beyond $489, I want to know how thismovie ends in the mid-east. You talk about were on in passing. I want the Iraniannuclear theat to be resolve before I go to a $100 and a $150 billion beyond the$489. I want to make sure that Syria ends in a way that doesnt blow up the entireregion. The Arab Spring is a work in progess. I would like to know with some generalidea how this movie ends. If we dont know how these things unfold, then I think weremaking a very poor national security decision driven by budgets. So now is not thetime, in my view, to go much beyond $487 billion. But when you talk about how toreduce spending, sign me up for Michaels analysis of trying to do more with less.Numbers matter but capabilities matter more. So you could have a smaller landforceif they have more capability, you all agree with that? Okay, so the idea abouthaving one fighter versus five because the F-35 can probably do things that the F-18and the F-16 cant do by a factor of five. But you got a coverage problem too. Doesit matter that you have nine carrier battle groups versus eleven? I think it doesbecause the conflicts that were facing in the 21st centurey require coverage.So what Im going to do is say no to sequestration with all the force in my beingbecause it is a dumb way to reduce defense spending. And I just want to say Billthat I appreciate you and others from the conservative world who still believe thatforeign policy matters. And Im disappointed in the Republican party for signing upfor the sequestration deal. The party of Ronald Reagan would never have done thefollowing, if a bunch of politicians fail to reach an agreement over a $1.2 trillionspending package, lets punish the military beyond recognition. It means as a party,we have slipped from what the role of the federal government should be. So my time,whatever is left in the Senate is going to try to re-establish my party in terms ofpriority. When we do a federal budget knowing that everything is on the table, thefirst question a Republican should ask and I think any American should ask, how didthe defense department fare? Because without national security social securtiy is anillusion. So lets get back to the idea of having a budget built around coreprinciples of whats important at this critical time in the world and what is theproper role of the federal government. If well start with that analysis, I thinkeverything falls into place.And whether or not in a 2500 F-35s or half that amount, I think really will bedetermined by the threats that we face. I dont want to go to war with China and Idont expect we will but its always good to know that you could and win. I hopemilitary force is not necessary to stop the Iranian regime marching toward a nuclearcapability. But I do know this, that if force is to be used, our capabilities needto be such that it would be decisive. My biggest fear about an Israeli attack inIran is that they dont have the capabilities in my view to bring the program to acomplete end. I think the biggest airplane they have is the F-15. Their airforce isone of the finest in the world but the Iranian nuclear threat is so dispersed and soredundant. I think it would be very difficult with an F-15, F-16 package to stopthose programs. I think it would be very difficult for the United States to stop thenuclear programs by themselves. But with the F-22, a deployable F-35, the stand-outweapons we have today, Id rather bet on us than the Iranians. And what would theworld be like if we dont go to the next generation manned aircraft and beef up ourdrone program? Because the world is not stagnant when it comes to defensecapabilities. So I just use Iran as an example, of why it is important to understandthe threats we face and get some of the threats resolved (clears throat) before wemarch down the road of additional defense spending much beyond $489 billion. I thinkweve reached the point now where if there is a military engagement with Iran, justattacking nuclear sites is not enough. I dont think we could stop the program withconfidence. I think were at the point now that if military force has to be usedagainst the Iranian regime, it should be used to shoot down their airforce, sinktheir navy and punish the revolutionary guard so they have very little offensivepunch. We will take a blow. The day that military force is used against Iran, youreopening up Pandoras box. They can unleash suicide bomber units all over the world.They can hit our bases in the Gulf region. They can do damage to us.But I know how this movie ends, they lose we win. And the reason we win is becauseour capabilities at this moment in time are so much superior than any othercapability on the planet. What would the world be like if that gap closed? I thinkthe world would be an exceedingly dangerous place. We do have the ability to go deepin Iran and come back. We do have the ability to hit them from the sea, air and landwithout putting a boot on the ground. We can destroy their airforce, we can sinktheir navy, we can punish the revolutionary guard at this moment of time. Thequestion for us in the 21st century, will there be other occasions where we need todo the same? Were worried about going into Syria now because of their air defensecapabilities. Theyre different than Libya, that is right. But let me just suggest toyou this, if we disarm more than were doing todayif we reduce our capabilitiesbeyond todays level, what would the next Syria be like?So I would suggest to you that Lindsey Graham, one of the strongest defense hawks inthe Congress understands were $16 trillion in debt. Now, well embrace what Michaelis talking about, going beyond $489. Only once as a nation we decide on who we areand we honestly deal with the threats we face. The budget has to be reflective ofthe fact that there is no substitute for American military power in the 21stcentury. That American military power has to be superior to anything on the planetat all times. I am not looking for a fair fight, are you all? Im looking for anoverwhelming advantage. Money matters, numbers matter but the more capable theforce, the more investment in research and development, the more drones. And as anairforce guy, this is heresy. I see a day where therell be a dramatic less need formanned fighter aircraft because the technology is being developed on the drone side.So as we go into January 2013, the first thing a conservative, and I think anyAmerican should want to do, is take off the table sequestration cuts that ourmilitary are facing because it is national suicide. Take those cuts off the table,sit down as a group of Republicans and Democrats and say the following, defensespending reductions beyond 489 are on the table, only if we stop this country frombecoming Greece. And that would mean meaningful entitlement reform. I am willing togive, yet again, but I have to see how this movie ends on the financial side. Ifthere is an effort by the Congress to address why were becoming Greece in a realway, count me in for more contributions from the Department of Defense. But mybottomline about how much I will give is going to be based on two very simpleconcepts. Were still at war and we cant afford to lose. And secondly, there is nosubstitute in the 21st century or any other time that I can envision for a strongAmerica who has the ability through the force of arms to fight and defeat evil.And I would just suggest that were in the 20s and 30s all over again. The reasonWorld War II happened is because people after World War I were so weary and so tiredthey did not want to embrace the idea there could be a Second World War. And whenthe radical elements of their day presented themselves, the people of that erarationalized themselves into believing that the threats were not real and genuine.Let us not make that mistake. Let us understand, with a clear purpose and a firmresolve, that radical Islam cannot be accommodated, it must be defeated. And ifAmerica is not going to help fight radical Islam, who will?Ronald Reagan said when ask, how does the Cold War end? We win, they lose. And heengaged in a Cold War concept that challenged the Russians and the Soviet Union tothe point that they collapsed. I would encourage us to engage in a full-force effortto defeat radical Islam. That does not mean boots on the ground by itself. A clean,drinking-well water source, a one-room school house that you would not send yourkids to for 15 minutes can do more in many areas of the world to destroy the radicalIslam as to agenda than a brigade of troops.So the one thing we havent talked aboutIll end on this note, when you talk aboutdefense spending, you also need to talk about foreign assistance because that 1% ofthe budget sometimes is all we have in terms of the presence. So I know were $16trillion in debt, I know that a guy like me has to give in areas that I find veryimportant in hold near and dear. But we cannot, ladies and gentlemen, afford theluxury of believing that the times in which we live in can be resolved without anexceptional America. So let us come up with a budget that recognizes that conceptand also will allow us to end any war we fight with any enemy, wherever they may bein a decisive manner. Let us also realize that the 1% of foreign aid for lack of abetter term can do as much to keep us safe as any military hardware. God bless you.(Audience claps).