TENNESSEE'S TROOPS DESERVE
OUR THANKS AND SUPPORT

The State of Tennessee is rich in military tradition and is home to the finest men and women serving in our armed services. Each time I visit one of our state's military installations, I am so proud of the high level of skill and professionalism demonstrated by our troops. I recently had the honor of celebrating Armed Forces Day with members of the Tennessee Army National Guard at McGhee-Tyson Airport in Alcoa. It was an exciting day as we held a christening ceremony for the Guard's newest aircraft, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

State-of-the-art aircraft, like the Kiowa Warrior, are a necessity if our troops are to carry out their missions. Every single day, our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line, whether they are in battle or simply carrying out their daily duties. It is critical that our weapons systems remain on the cutting edge. During the Gulf War, our military technology was critical to our success. We must ensure that military technology continues to be a top priority.

I have said time and again that one of the primary responsibilities of the federal government is protecting the security of the American people. With the Cold War over, some argue that national security does not need to be as much of a priority as it once was. I disagree. It's true that we enjoy peace and prosperity, and it is true that America is the strongest country in the world. However, the world is still a dangerous place and rather than facing one primary threat, as was the case during the Cold War, we now face several.

Both Russia and China are proliferating weapons of mass destruction and the materials to produce them to nations like North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. As evidenced by the recent incident with our reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea, the Chinese are not happy about our presence in that part of the world. China and other nations are increasing their efforts to obtain our highly sensitive national security information - information that could one day be used against us.

As Members of Congress, we must ensure that our troops have the resources they need to carry out their duties. We must continue to increase funding for research and development, for procurement, and especially for quality of life. We cannot send our troops into battle ill-equipped.

We cannot continue to cannibalize our vehicles and aircraft, leaving some to sit unused.

We also cannot continue to ask our troops to do more with less, while increasing their operations and asking them to stay away from their families for longer periods of time. Many of our troops live in substandard housing, and some even qualify for food stamps. This is unacceptable. Fortunately, Congress has taken steps to improve their quality of life through pay increases, as well as increased funding for housing, recreational, and training facilities. We must continue this commitment.