Oliver North / January 10, 2023

To the 118th Congress: Welcome Aboard. Now Get to Work — Part II

Improving the readiness of our military must be priority No. 1.

My thanks to faithful readers — pro and con — for reminding me I am not a prophet. In last week’s column, I predicted our new Congress would have a new speaker of the House and a “sworn-in” Republican majority in the House of Representatives by Jan. 3. Oops!

It took an unprecedented 15 ballots to elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House of Representatives — and second in line to the presidency of the United States. Since then, a seemingly endless parade of “reporters,” pundits and political commentators have besieged us with how the extended process affects the Republican Party’s ability to influence the course of events during the next two years.

All this chatter is meaningless. What matters most is what Congress does to rapidly repair our national security.

Communist China is our No. 1 adversary. Xi Jinping’s goal of global domination is aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin, the Ayatollahs in Tehran, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and a small handful of lesser despots like Syria’s Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Together, they pose our greatest risk of war.

Our nation’s armed forces exist to deter war and win if we must fight. Improving the readiness of our military must be priority No. 1 for our new Congress. Proof of our lack of readiness is in a piece at Defense One by Caitlin M. Kenney titled “‘We Should Have Been There’: Marine General Laments the State of the Amphib Navy,” and should chill every member of Congress. As China continues to build its Navy in numbers and sophistication, our Navy is suffering serious attrition.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Joint Chiefs of Staff explored the early deployment of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to provide essential “contingency forces.” The Marines were ready, willing and able. But there were insufficient U.S. Navy amphibious ships available to transport the Marines and their equipment.

This reveals a gaping hole in our national defense and bodes a dangerous future. In sworn testimony, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl told lawmakers the Marine Corps needs at least 31 traditional amphibious ships: 10 LHA/LHD “big-decks” and 21 LPDs. The number is based on the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which assumes the ships have an 80% readiness rate.

At the time of Lt. Gen. Heckl’s report to Congress, our Navy had 32 ships, but only 15 (47%) were available. The lead ship of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, assigned to transport the 22nd MEU, was mothballed when it returned to port in October 2022.

The ranks of our military are thinning the same way as its equipment due to the failing policies of the Biden regime and its push for a WOKE agenda. Enlistments and reenlistments in every branch of the U.S. military are well below levels essential to maintain combat readiness. More than 8,000 military personnel — many with critical military occupational specialties (MOSs) — were discharged from our armed forces for being unwilling to be injected with the experimental COVID vaccines. That requirement has now been dropped for successive “booster shots” and new accessions need not be inoculated — but the damage is already done.

Scores of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines I covered in the long war against radical Islam have told me their reasons for leaving service. No. 1, overwhelmingly, is “the disastrous August 2021 Afghanistan ‘Bug Out’ for which no one has ever been held accountable.”

Combat veterans also point to continued indoctrination in critical race theory: “Just because I’m White doesn’t make me a racist. In a gunfight nobody cares about the race or color of the guys covering our six.” And another: “Color in combat doesn’t count. All that matters is courage and competence.”

Congress must use its “power of the purse” to improve the abysmal state of our national security in an increasingly dangerous world. More next week.


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