Weekly Columns

Protecting the United States and our interests is a fundamental responsibility for the federal government. Our founders made this role clear when they wrote the Constitution with the intent to, in part, “provide for the common defense.”

Today we understand how vital that is in the face of threats from adversaries and competitors around the world.

The Chinese Communist Party is actively seeking to displace the United States from atop the international order. Russia openly threatens global security and wages unprovoked wars to expand its influence and territory. Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and underwrite terrorist activity in the Middle East and beyond.

There are numerous other challenges on the horizon, which simply underscores the need to ensure America’s military is always able and ready to defend our homeland and protect our interests. 

One thing Natural State residents should feel increasing pride and excitement with is Arkansas’s growing footprint in the national security space.

In addition to the vital ongoing missions at Little Rock Air Force Base, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith and the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, we have been fortunate – through a combination of hard work, strategic planning and collaboration – to welcome key defense industries to Camden where a skilled workforce and cutting-edge technology are producing vital weapons and tools that help America and our allies maintain superiority on the battlefield. 

I have always believed in the value of this project and advocated public and private commitments to it because it’s truly a win-win – jobs and economic development for the region and enhanced national security capabilities for our country.

Most recently, the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act provided further significant investments in these enterprises, assuring all involved with this partnership of its long-term viability. 

Our state is also on the cusp of adding an even higher profile contribution to our national security résumé with Fort Smith’s selection as the preferred location to host the Air Force’s future F-35 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program that trains military personnel from allied nations on the fifth-generation fighter jet. This development represents yet another significant contribution to our national defense while, at the same time, promising to yield tremendous benefits for the region and our state. 

The Arkansas Congressional delegation and the Governor’s office have worked hand-in-hand to support this endeavor, including through securing critical funding and facilitating beneficial dialogue between the Department of Defense, state leaders and our allies abroad that plan to participate. 

This work continued in January as I traveled to Germany, Poland and Finland to discuss our shared defense initiatives and partnership in F-35 training. The meetings were an opportunity to reassure our allies that Arkansas remains committed to this opportunity and stands ready to support any needs for their success and our own.

This productive trip was just the latest effort to champion Arkansas’s role in U.S. national security. Our state has incredible resources and features that are ready-made to help ensure the federal government can, as the Constitution envisioned, defend our country.

Arkansans should feel confident that your elected officials will continue to advocate fiercely for our state to further expand its ability to contribute to that foundational duty.