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U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn says 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Defends Freedom from Emerging Global Threats

Rising Tension with Iran Sheds Light on the Need for Strengthened National Security

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – On Tuesday, June 25th, 2019, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of passing the National Defense Authorization Act.

Remarks as Prepared:

Thank you Mister President.

In 1831, a young Frenchman seeking to understand the motivating principles behind the world’s newest independent nation mused that “In America, the principle of sovereignty is not either barren or concealed, as it is with some other nations; it is recognized by the customs and proclaimed by the laws; it spreads freely, and arrives without impediment at its most remote consequences.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Senator Marsha Blackburn.

Alexis de Tocqueville had come to America on a research mission; he had no special training in government or political science, but he was fueled by a desire to know if the principles that guided the early American republic could help his fellow Frenchmen. Even as an outsider, de Tocqueville saw freedom—not a lone figurehead or compulsory philosophy—as the foundation to build upon.

Today, however, the belief in a moral right to self-governance is more often than not portrayed as quaint, and the kind of fierce independence that drove our founders to the battlefield outdated in comparison to modern concepts of global governance and polite co-dependence.

But when I look at the state of the world, and all its competing philosophies, I am grateful for our bold commitment to self-defense.

The importance of maintaining a regular budget for our military cannot be overstated. Failure to do so will put our troops at a disadvantage. The ongoing tension between the United States and Iran has magnified the part that deterrence plays in defending our security without resorting to the use of military force.

Last week I spoke at length about two emerging warfighting domains that challenge the way we think about modern defense—cyber, and space. That’s why this year’s NDAA expands beyond legacy programs to include recognition of emerging threats.

The next great threat to our sovereignty may be more subtle than a bomb dropped on American soil. It could undermine our cyber security, or slowly compromise the supply chain that provides us with needed microelectronics.

It might cause us to question our position in the world, or rethink our influence in the international community.

It’s important to understand that these attacks aren’t only meant to undermine our relationships and our infrastructure; they’re a coordinated and intentional attack on the foundations that de Tocqueville recognized as both powerful, and unique.

The implications are clear: everything we do in this chamber must be understood in the context of defending America’s sovereignty. It means believing in the supremacy of the Constitution, and giving the defense community the means to protect it. It means recognizing that freedom of speech, the free press, and free assembly are just as precious as any physical thing we can put under lock and key.

Those who would threaten our freedom and safety do not look to America and see our formidable military as the single greatest threat to their destructive agenda.

They are most frightened by our unwavering and ardent commitment to freedom.

They are frightened of the young men and women who willingly join our military.

They are frightened by the strength of conviction that leads men and women on the street to protect protests they’d never join in a million years, because they recognize that defending someone’s right to speak is just as important as speaking themselves.

They are frightened by the confidence with which we defend the Constitution when well-meaning actors ask if we could set the First Amendment aside to better protect impressionable minds from dangerous ideas.

Ours is the kind of freedom that is always in danger of extinction, but always worth protecting, and this week, I implore my friends on both sides of the aisle to do all they can to ensure our best, first line of defense has the ability to do so.

I yield the floor.

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