Weekly Column

There's a lot to be learned from North Korea's July 4 missile test, but one thing stands out in particular: The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place, and the threats our country faces are only growing in number. In spite of the ever present dangers our country must confront, the past administration failed to meaningfully prepare us for them and to combat them at an earlier stage when the problems they posed were smaller.

If you're not familiar with the details, North Korea conducted yet another test, its sixth this year. Unlike the previous five, however, the U.S. and South Korea have both confirmed that this was North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. A technological leap over its previous missiles, this new ICBM has an estimated range of roughly 3,400 miles, and experts agree there is not much time before North Korea develops a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S.

How did we get here? The answer is simple, really. For eight years, the United States, and the world community as well, has largely failed to address the problem in a meaningful way. While the United Nations has issued new sanctions and the U.S. has issued some of its own, many of these sanctions lack the teeth to meaningful deter and rollback this regime's rouge, destabilizing behavior.

For instance, while the U.S. severely limits imports to and exports from North Korea, the U.S. has looked away from other countries that routinely do business with North Korea and provide it the economic lifeline it needs to keep its missile and nuclear programs functioning. China regularly exports oil to North Korea and provides the regime with much needed food assistance. It also reported in April that trade with North Korea increased nearly 40 percent in the first quarter of 2017, and some believe China even underreports its volume of trade with North Korea.

Fortunately, this administration recognizes that we are not doing enough. I am highly encouraged by numerous officials in the administration, ranging from Secretary of State Tillerson to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who have all publicly voiced their concern over these recent developments and the need to do more. At a July 5 meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Ambassador Haley called the missile test "a clear and sharp military escalation."

Even more encouraging was her recognition that more must be done to address the support other nations are still offering North Korea. Ambassador Haley called attention to their violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions and addressed the need to take action, such as curtailing trade relations with these countries if need be. She also promised the U.S. would bring forth new resolutions and sanctions proportional to the threat North Korea poses. I applaud her efforts and look forward to any legislative items Congress may consider in the coming weeks to bolster our efforts to deter such dangerous and destabilizing behavior from North Korea.

I am also encouraged by the Trump Administration's renewed commitment to our military. The budget caps imposed on defense spending under the Obama Administration have left our military underfunded, hollowed out, and ill-prepared to meet the challenges before us. Our Army is the smallest it has been since WWII, and the Navy is the smallest it's been since WWI. Our Air Force is the smallest and oldest it's been in its entire history. Through the administration's proposed increase in defense spending and the further increases proposed in Congress we can begin restoring the military readiness we desperately need to protect our citizens and ideals.

As new threats rise around the world and existing threats grow, it's imperative the U.S. demonstrates strong leadership, as well as a comprehensive understanding of these threats. With the team President Trump has put together, and also the resources our military needs, I'm confident we can face them with strength.

The Renacci Report

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