Opinions and Speeches

Friday, May 13, 2016

Camden County Critical to National Defense

As published in the Tribune & Georgian

Our coastal community has a great motto: “Every Day in Camden County is Military Appreciation Day.”

Never has that motto been more important as our nation faces more and more serious threats to our national security.

The world is in a time of turmoil. Like all freedom-loving nations, the United States’ policy is to first confront international strife through diplomacy. But to preserve our diplomatic advantage, we must support and maintain our military – through all necessary means. 

In Georgia, we have assets across our state that play a critical role in our national security: Fort Gordon in Augusta and its new Cyber units, Fort Benning in Columbus, Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, and the J-STARS at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. The military installations in our state are appreciated and supported by their communities.

Though many Georgians may not realize it, Camden County is home to a key front line in our nation’s defense: Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Kings Bay includes active duty members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard units, as well as civilian contractors and family members.

Kings Bay is a critical player in one-third of the so-called “nuclear triad.” Our strategic nuclear arsenal consists of three components – traditional strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and what Kings Bay offers: submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine is one of our nation’s most secure and survivable nuclear deterrents. Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines currently carry over half of our nuclear deterrent arsenal, and under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the percentage will grow to 70 percent.

In 2027, the Ohio-class submarines will be retired at a rate of one per year, as they reach the end of their 42-year service life. The Ohio replacement submarine program will provide continuous at-sea strategic deterrence capability in support of the 2010 United States Nuclear Posture Review. To do that, the Ohio replacement program needs to begin construction by 2021.

One of the means of ensuring a strong offense is maintaining a good defense. One of the surest ways of maintaining that is to make sure that our fleets of aircraft and watercraft are maintained.

Fortunately, the president’s budget this year begins the process of replacing the Ohio-class submarines by providing $1.9 billion this year and $13.2 billion over the course of the program.

I supported this request in an official request of my own to the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. I will not stop working for sustained funding, because delays will only result in an increased threat to the United States and our allies, not to mention lost jobs, time and money.

Camden County and the Camden Partnership work tirelessly to make sure that our servicemembers feel valued and supported. A perfect piece of evidence to that end is their recent designation as the nation’s first Coast Guard Community. As Sheila McNeill, president of the Camden Partnership, taught me years ago, “Every Day in Camden County is Military Appreciation Day.”

That should be a lesson for all of us.

Johnny Isakson, a Republican, is the senior U.S. Senator from Georgia.