Congressman Jim Banks, R-3rd, talks to two third-grade classes at Warsaw Christian School Tuesday. Afterward, he offered a grim outlook on the country’s military readiness in light of troubles around the globe. Photo by Dan Spalding.
Congressman Jim Banks, R-3rd, talks to two third-grade classes at Warsaw Christian School Tuesday. Afterward, he offered a grim outlook on the country’s military readiness in light of troubles around the globe. Photo by Dan Spalding.
If President Trump is looking for Congressional support for his plan to beef up the military, he’ll have one in Jim Banks.
Banks, a freshman Congressman who is a Navy Reserve officer and served in Afghanistan, will likely be an outspoken proponent when Congress debates the request.
The Columbia City Republican, who sits on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, said he supports hiking  defense spending significantly beyond Trump’s  $54 billion proposal.
That boost, he says, amounts to about a 3-percent increase.
“It’s not enough,” said Banks in an interview Tuesday after he met with two third-grade classes at  Warsaw Christian School and talked about the functions of government. His comments and concerns about global affairs, though, were grim enough to spook young children.
Banks said he thinks the military budget needs to be increased by as much as 10 percent.
“The readiness crisis that we face today is as significant as we’ve ever seen at least in modern history as we are on the brink of disaster in many regions around the world,” the Republican lawmaker said.
He pointed to tensions with North Korea and U.S. military roles in Syria, Iraq as well as ongoing concerns with Iran and Russia.
“We’re in the midst of a tumultuous and dangerous environment around the world and we have a military that’s not equipped and not ready to go out and project American strength, mostly as a deterrent.”
He blamed former President Obama for weakening of the military through budget cuts that have left it in a condition that should concern everybody, he said.
“We’ve heard testimony about Marines going to museums to raid parts to repair aircraft to get them working again,” Banks said, citing one of several examples the military faces.
“All awhile, the world appears to be on fire with the number of threats we’re faced with.”
Banks said he recently visited four European countries, including Ukraine, where Russia continues to represent a threat.
He said he’s pleased that Trump is projecting more military strength and said he appreciated Trump’s decision to retaliate against Syria after the country used chemical weapons on its own people. In doing so, it sends a message to other countries.
He said he thinks the world is taking notice of Trump’s new approach.
“When I spoke to world leaders last week in Eastern Europe, each of them appreciated that this president is a man of his word. They all supported his retaliation against Syria,” in part because it sends a message to leaders in Russia, North Korea and Iran that Trump is serious about what he says.
He said he worked with Sen. Todd Young on a resolution seeking an authorization of military force to address the threat of ISIS and said he wants to see Trump provide Congress with an update on his approach “before further actions are taken.”
His military service in Afghanistan, combined with his discussions with leaders of European allies, have given him a new appreciation for the importance of NATO. He said he’s pleased Trump has “reversed his prior statements” about NATO being antiquated.
Seats on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees – now held by Banks – opened up after Jackie Walorski, Indiana’s 2nd District representative, moved to the high-profile Ways and Means Committee.
He said he’s now the only Hoosier lawmaker on those committees and said he likes how his role is developing.
Banks’ talk with students at Warsaw Christian about the role of government, dovetailed well with his background. On a classroom wall, a diagram broke down the different levels of local, state and federal government.
With Banks’ election last fall, the former Whitley County councilman and state senator has now worked in all three levels.
Banks talked about his role as a lawmaker and the electoral process and then fielded questions from about 30 students taught by teachers Amy Rosswurm and Amelia Serafino.
He began his presentation by pointing out, “I work for you.”