Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) vowed to fix what he called a “disaster” over defense spending in the debt ceiling deal agreed by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“I will use all powers available to me in the Senate to have amendment votes to undo this catastrophe for defense,” Graham wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I support raising the debt limit for 90 days to give us a chance to correct this disaster for defense.”
The debt ceiling agreement would cap defense spending at $886 billion in fiscal 2024, about a 3.5 percent increase. That is below the current rate of inflation, which was 5 percent in March and 4.9 percent in April.
“Have total disgust for political leaders’ decision to make it remotely possible to gut our national security apparatus at a time of great peril,” Graham added. “Take this absurd idea off the table.”
At the heart of the issue is the defense budget allocated for the U.S. Navy, which has to confront a China currently boasting the largest navy in the world. Republican lawmakers have argued that Navy’s share of the FY2024 defense budget, estimated at $255.8 billion, is inadequate.
By 2028, China would have “upward of 440” ships while the U.S. Navy would have 291 ships, said U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro during a congressional hearing in March. However, the Navy chief added that the U.S. naval ships would be “extremely more modern than they ever have been.”
As of April, the U.S. Navy had a fleet of 298 ships, according to the Congressional Research Service (pdf).
“How far the Party of [former President] Ronald Reagan has fallen. The Biden defense budget has been ridiculed by Republicans for over a year,” Graham wrote in a separate post on Monday. “Republicans and Democrats both have been screaming about the rise and growing threat of China.”
“The Biden budget in ‘24 and ‘25 sets in motion the reduction of Navy ships. This is welcome news to China,” the senator added. “As to the share of GDP spent on defense, the Biden budget matches and eventually dips below the lowest level in modern history.”
The South Carolina senator called out McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) while pointing to the Ukraine war.
“Nothing in this bill provides weapons or technology to help Ukraine defeat [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and make the world more stable,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “To Biden, McConnell, and McCarthy, what are we going to do about our own national defense as well as our support of Ukraine? We need to know.”
Bigger Fleets Win
Sam Tangredi, a professor at the U.S. Naval College and a former U.S. Navy captain, warned that bigger fleets always win in naval warfare, in an article published in the January issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine.
Tangredi reviewed 28 naval wars from about 500 BC to recent Cold War proxy conflicts and interventions, and found that 25 were “won by the side with the larger fleet.”
“All other wars were won by superior numbers or, when between equal forces, superior strategy, or admiralship,” Tangredi wrote. “Often all three qualities act together, because operating a large fleet generally facilitates more extensive training and is often an indicator that leaders are concerned with strategic requirements.”
He pointed to War War II in the Pacific as an example of how technical superiority did not guarantee victory.
“Imperial Japan entered the war with some superior technologies: the Zero fighter, Long-Lance torpedo, and aerial torpedoes that could strike in shallow water,” Tangredi wrote. “However, it was the overall might of U.S. industry and the size of the U.S. fleet (particularly its logistics and amphibious ships) that ground out victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy.”
Tangredi ended his article with a warning about the United States fighting China’s military (PLA) and its Navy (PLAN).
“A naval war against China in the western Pacific in this decade would pit a smaller U.S. naval force against a larger PLAN, on China’s home turf, within range of the PLA’s air and rocket forces,” he wrote. “U.S. leaders must ask themselves to what extent they are willing to bet on technological—without numerical—superiority in that fight.”
‘A Change in Global Leadership’
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in an op-ed published by Defense News in April, said that “sea power is essential to countering communist China.”
If the Chinese Communist Party succeeds in displacing the United States as the world’s dominant naval power, Rubio said, “it will not just mean a change in global leadership; it will mean a change in the rules of international politics, and not one for the better.”
“Too few people fully understand or appreciate the fact that our ships do more than defend allies and partners from invasion; they also guarantee freedom of navigation on the open seas,” Rubio wrote.
The Florida senator questioned why Biden’s budget request for the Navy and Marine Corps is below inflation.
“In other words, the White House wants to cut the Navy’s funding when it’s already losing ground,” he explained. “It makes no sense when the production of the Columbia-class submarine is 10% behind schedule and that of the Virginia-class submarine is ‘significantly behind.’”
“If our leaders want even the slightest chance of maintaining U.S. maritime supremacy—and all the benefits it brings to the American people and the world as a whole—they need to reorder their priorities and accelerate our nation’s shipbuilding.”