Anyone running for the United States Senate is asking voters to trust us with important national security decisions.
Will we guarantee that our military will have the funding and support necessary to defeat emerging threats like the Islamic State?
Will we support our troops while they defend our nation and our freedoms while in harm's way? Will we stand with our allies like Israel?
And, perhaps most importantly, will we make sure that our veterans, who have sacrificed so much, are given the respect and care they deserve?
Iowa voters deserve those answers.
I thank God every day that each of the 150 soldiers who I commanded in Iraq came home safely to Iowa, and I pray for the families of the thousands of brave Americans who were not so fortunate. To see Iraqi cities that Americans once shed blood to liberate now be overtaken by terrorists is heartbreaking for all of us who once wore “boots on the ground” in Iraq.
These terrorists have American blood on their hands, and their ambitions are a direct threat to our national security.
That is why I strongly support the decision to launch airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and agreed with the recent vote in Congress to authorize the training and arming of moderate rebels in Syria. But to defeat the Islamic State and keep Americans safe in the future, more may be required.
My positions on national security are drawn from over 22 years wearing our nation’s uniform. I know first-hand the importance of having actionable intelligence, a clearly defined mission and the fortitude to see it through, and a withdrawal plan for after the mission is accomplished.
I also know that no matter how brave or skilled our soldiers are, we cannot accomplish complicated and dangerous missions without the best equipment, reliable allies, and the strong support of the American people and their elected representatives.
My opponent, Congressman Bruce Braley, and I have very different approaches to national security. While I can respect his opposition to our efforts in Iraq when he entered Congress in 2007, I cannot accept or condone his votes to defund our troops while they were engaged in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
More recently, I disagreed with his vote this past June that would have prohibited the American military from striking the Islamic State in Iraq even if our civilian and military leaders deemed it necessary.
Of course, funding for troops in harm’s way is just part of the Pentagon’s budget. When I was in Iraq, I took great solace in the knowledge that our military equipment and capabilities were far superior to our opponents.’
This is part of an implicit promise that our nation makes to all of us who wear its uniform: We will hold every technological advantage possible, and our enemy will never win.
Unfortunately, Congressman Braley’s voting record runs counter to that sentiment. He has voted to cut tens of billion from the defense budget over the next decade – funding that will leave future American soldiers, sailors, coast guardsmen, airmen and marines less prepared to face emerging threats.
During my time in Iraq, my troops and I worked alongside troops from many other nations, just as our pilots are now doing over the skies of Iraq and Syria.
America is strongest when we stand with our allies. And we have no stronger ally in the Mideast than Israel, a nation that lives under daily threat from its neighbors.
This was clear earlier this summer, when terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired thousands of rockets and used secret tunnels to terrorize Israeli citizens. I supported Israel’s right to defend itself this summer, and support the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Congressman Braley feels differently. In 2010, he sent a letter to President Obama urging a lifting of the blockade of Gaza. Considering how many secret terrorist tunnels and rockets were found in Gaza this summer, his position looks even more irresponsible in hindsight. With so many emerging threats around the world, we must stand with allies like Israel.
We also have a duty to take care of our men and women in uniform when they come home. As the wife of a 28-year retired Army Ranger and a future veteran myself, our veterans’ care is obviously a personal issue for me – and one that I will make a top priority if I’m elected.
In contrast, Congressman Braley missed 75 percent of Veterans Affairs hearings in Congress – even as reports emerged of gross negligence in our VA hospitals.
America is the greatest nation in history, thanks largely to the sacrifice of all those who serve our nation in uniform. If elected as your next U.S. Senator, I promise to make the tough decisions required to defend our national security interests and unwaveringly stand with our key allies. I will ensure our troops have the resources required to accomplish their missions and fight to give our veterans the best care possible when they come home.
Joni Ernst is a Republican member of the Iowa Senate and as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. She is the Republican nominee for the Iowa United States Senate.