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Rubio: “I have never opposed an NDAA, and I have supported every single one of them, despite the fact that they didn't have everything I wanted or everything I liked—until today… We have yet to realize what a significant threat China poses to this country and in every realm and sphere. And until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life and our place in the world, and if we do that, the world will be worse off for it and we will have no one to blame but ourselves for failing to act.”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) championed and secured important provisions for Florida and the nation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); however, he voted against the NDAA Conference Report earlier today because the bipartisan provision reinstating crippling penalties against ZTE was stripped out of the NDAA FY 2019 Conference Report last month. Rubio previously said he was “shocked that some of my colleagues decided to let ZTE continue to do business” and that Congress “can’t continue to let this happen.”

The NDAA includes the following key Florida-specific provisions for which Rubio advocated:

  • $200 million in military construction for Florida including:
    • Littoral Combat Ship facilities for Naval Station Mayport
    • Air Traffic Control Tower for Naval Air Station Whiting Field
    • F-35 facilities for Eglin Air Force Base
    • A Main Gate for Patrick Air Force Base
    • KC-135 Flight Simulators for MacDill Air Force Base
  • Authorizes continued development of the B-21 bomber, work being done in Melbourne, Florida.
  • Supports for the Gulf Range Complex that extends from Eglin AFB over the Gulf of Mexico, the largest military range in the continental United States.
  • Additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters
  • Increased funding for the Navy’s major shipbuilding programs
  • A 2.6% military pay raise for our troops

A rough and partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below:

We are halfway through my eighth year in the United States Senate and in my time here, I have never once spoken against, voted against, or opposed in any way any of the National Defense Authorization Acts that have come before the Senate. And the reason being that despite whatever flaws one might find on most occasions in any piece of legislation, the defense of our country is the fundamental obligation of our federal government. It comes before everything else….And so I have never opposed an NDAA, and I have supported every single one of them, despite the fact that they didn't have everything I wanted or everything I liked—until today.

There is a lot of good in this legislation, and it makes it difficult to be an opponent of it. For Florida it's authorized over $200 million dollars for Military construction in the state. Littoral Combat Ship facilities at Naval Station Mayport, Air Traffic Control Towers at Whiting Field, F-35 facilities that are important at Eglin Air Force Base, KC-135 flight simulators at MacDill Air Force Base, it authorizes the Secretary of the Air Force to build a cyberspace test facility at Eglin. It authorizes the conveyance of land to the Air Force Enlisted Village, which is a nonprofit corporation, consisting of approximately 80 acres next to Eglin for independent living and apartments. It authorizes the continued development of the B-21 bomber, work that’s being done in Melbourne, Florida. It fully supports the Gulf Range complex, a true treasure for our country and it's the largest military range in the continental United States.

As for the country, it also has all sorts of other very important things. An over 2.6% military pay raise, it increases the active duty workforce by an increase in the active duty force of 15,600 personnel bringing the total to over 1.3 million. It tries to address the pilot shortage. It authorizes $10.7 billion dollars to buy 77 more F-35 joint strike fighters, $193 million in research and development funding for new software and improvements to be incorporated in future years in that program. It authorizes new missile defense, including $175 million intended to integrate the THAAD and Patriot systems in South Korea. It authorizes $23.7 billion for Navy shipbuilding, an increase of close to $2 billion dollars over what the President requested. We could go on and on, it does many important things in rebuilding our military strength in this country.

But it failed on one important front, and that is what I believe to be a very significant and serious threat to our National Security and the future of this country, one that we are only beginning to wake up to.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the United States is engaged in a geopolitical competition with a near peer adversary. Since 1991 there's been no other nation on Earth that could project power anywhere close to what the United States could do, until now. Unlike our country, China is a nation with an ancient history, one that leaves them with a long-standing sense of victimhood, but also one that leaves them to believe that they have a preordained destiny to once again be the most powerful nation on Earth.

This is what they mean when they constantly use a phrase, you’ll see they use, it’s called historical determinism. In summary what they are saying is they are predestined to be the world's most powerful country and therefore they believe they are predestined to surpass the United States, and by mean surpass I mean surpass us geo-politically, economically and militarily. This is not a new ambition, by the way. But for two decades they have followed a strategy called hiding their power and biding their time. But all of that changed last year, in October at their party congress, their President for life, Xi, he laid out a vision for china and he did it in very clear nationalist terms. Here is what he said, backed by the invincible force of more than 1.3 billion people we have an infinitely vast stage of our era a historical heritage of unmatched depth and incomparable resolve.

We have arrived at a new era where China is now in a leading position in terms of technological strength, defense capabilities and composite national strength and with a military which can fight and win. And you see evidence of these beliefs. You see is it in their impressive and massive military buildup and quantum leaps in technological advances. You see how they're working to destroy the current world order that was built by America and our allies and now seek to replace it with one that they build and one that will be led by them. That's how they offer loans, not just to get their companies more business, but to give them leverage and footholds in countries and they do so with no questions asked about democracy or human rights.

The problem is those two measures will do nothing to constrain the threat that ZTE poses to the United States and our national security. Nothing. A fine when you're backed by the Chinese government, a multibillion-dollar fine is nothing. And you can put all the business people you want on their board. It is not the business people we should be concerned about. It is the technical people in these companies. The ones that can get ZTE routers embedded in American telecommunications, create backdoor access to our universities, so they can steal our research, communications systems so they can intercept our communications in military affairs and economic affairs, conduct cyber espionage, commercial espionage and potentially denial of our command-and-control in the military one day, if left unaddressed.

Think about embedding these Trojan horses inside of our telecommunications systems and networks in America, any company that poses that threat should not be allowed to operate, much less remain in business, and ZTE is one such company. Even if ZTE tells the Chinese government, we don't want to do this, they have no choice, or they will cease to exist or their leaders will be in jail and somebody new will replace them that will do it. And so this is why this is so critical. And why in the bill that was passed by the Senate we reimposed these penalties, and it was taken out in conference and the threat posed by China and by its telecommunications companies are so severe and significant that it regrettably brings me to the point where I cannot support a bill I have always supported in my time here. We need to wake up to the threat that china poses to this country because we are running out of time to do so.

ZTE is a big danger. They are small compared to Huawei which is a company even bigger than ZTE, that poses an even greater systemic risk. And if we can't even take on ZTE because they lobby and because of American companies coming here, how are we ever going to take on Huawei or any other dangers they pose to us?

It's time we open our eyes. We are engaged in in a geopolitical competition not with some poor agrarian country trying to catch up, but with a global superpower who is quickly nipping at our heels and doing so unfairly, with the intent of replacing us in the world as the most powerful country militarily, economically, geopolitically and technologically.

The history of America is short in comparison to the great empires of history and the great countries of history. 240-some odd years in the scope of history is but a blink of an eye and history is full of examples of nations that became complacent, and lost their standing and their way of life. And I'm not claiming that ZTE alone will be that, but it is a part of a broader problem, and that is that we have yet to realize what a significant threat Chinese poses to this country and in every realm and sphere. And until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life and our place in the world, and if we do that, the world will be worse off for it and we will have no one to blame but ourselves for failing to act.