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Latta in the Bryan Times: Lack of American Leadership Has Led to Rising World Tensions

As I traveled around Northwest and West Central Ohio this past August, I continued to hear the same concern from constituents – our country is increasingly less safe and people are worried. Their concerns are founded in a laundry list of international problems; the rise of ISIS, an emboldened Iran that is flaunting U.N. regulations, Russia’s aggressive posture in Eastern Europe, and the recent actions by the Chinese in the South China Sea as they methodically attempt to take control of Asia’s shipping and trade routes and flex their military muscle.

It’s not difficult to see that rising tensions in regions around the globe can be directly tied to a lack of American leadership in recent years. The vacuums created by the feckless foreign policy of the Obama Administration are all too quickly filled by strongmen like Putin, extremist leaders like Rouhani, and radical Islamic terrorists like ISIS. Even worse, our tremendous military, the greatest strength we have as a nation, is constantly being undermined by actions in Washington.

For instance, readiness is at an all-time low. Our Air Force is short 4,000 maintainers and 700 pilots for full fighting strength. Our military aircraft are 27 years old on average, an all-time high. The pilots in the U.S. military are no doubt the best in the world, but they are being forced to maintain their excellence with less than half of the training time they should be receiving.

The men and women that serve our country have done a tremendous job of doing more with less, but our praise and thanks aren’t enough. They are putting their lives on the line for our country, and we need to give them the resources necessary to keep America safe and win the war on terror. I voted for legislation in May, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that increases the tools our military needs to combat terrorism and ensure the safety of Americans.

In a fiscally responsible way, the NDAA stops the drawdown of our military and begins to reverse its effects. It also encourages retention of our best soldiers by increasing troop pay by 2.1 percent and includes funding for training and maintenance so that our soldiers can be fully prepared for combat. I’ve been selected by Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the NDAA Conference Committee to hammer out a final bill with the Senate. I’m committed to helping write legislation that provides our military with what they need to keep our country secure.

We can’t keep our head in the sand any longer when it comes to the dangers that are confronting us in the world. The devastating attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando, Nice, and Paris show the deadly influence that the Islamic State wields around the world and here at home. I’ve voted for legislation that guarantees the vetting of people coming to the U.S., whether through the Visa Waiver program or by refugee status, to stop the arrival of those that wish to do us harm.

It’s not just ISIS, however. Iran continues to behave as a rogue state, carrying out illegal missile launches, stifling human rights, and bankrolling groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Despite assurances from President Obama that Iran would change their behavior after the nuclear deal that was reached last year, we’ve seen a further emboldened nation that threatens stability in the region and danger to our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel. Recently, I voted to increase sanctions on Iran for their behavior and to punish financial institutions that help them fund terrorist activities.

We also need to stay strong when dealing with Russia and China, two countries that continue to push the bounds of their military power. That means supporting our NATO allies in Europe and protecting critical trade routes in Asia.

The world is a dangerous place, but the United States has the will, the military might, and the dedication of our brave servicemen and women to keep us safe. It’s time for the Administration to step up and support actions that protect America and its people.

Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) is the U.S. Congressman representing Ohio’s 5th District, comprised of 14 northwest Ohio counties, including Williams County.

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