Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Steve Flowers, Inside the State House
During the Great Depression and coming out of World War II, the deep south had immense power in Washington. We were fortunate to have a cadre of southern senators, who were seniority laden and knew how to bring home the bacon. This group of deep south southern Democrats controlled most of the prominent and consequential major committees in the United States Senate.
In that era, all the jobs in the United States Capitol and our state capitol were patronage jobs or really could be called political jobs. Every clerk, stenographer, research analyst, secretary, and even elevator attendants were granted their jobs based on who you knew, not what you knew. Most people in Washington were working there because they were southerners who had connections to our southern senators. So if you got in an elevator in the nation’s capital, you often-times would hear southern accents. That is not true now, today you would hear a foreign accent or foreign language.
Our southern senior senators knew how to bring home the bacon like nobody’s business. The roll call included Stennis and Eastland from Mississippi, the southern lion Richard Russell from Georgia, Strom Thurmond from South Carolina, Russell Long from Louisiana, and last but not least our, our dynamic duo of distinguished, erudite powers, Lister Hill and John Sparkman. For this reason, a good many of our nation’s military bases are in the south.
Ft. Benning in Georgia is there because of Richard Russell, and probably its location on Alabama’s eastern border of Columbus/Phenix City is no accident. Russell was granting deference to Hill and Sparkman, who really did not need any help. Eastland and Stennis did pretty well for Mississippi’s Gulf Coast when it comes to military and ship-building facilities. Eglin and Tyndall Air Force Bases in the Florida panhandle are there thanks to one Bob Sikes “The He-Coon.”
However, no state has benefitted more from military defense-related locations than us in the good ole Heart of Dixie, thanks largely to Lister Hill and John Sparkman. If you took the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, the Maxwell/Gunter Air Bases in Montgomery, and Ft. Rucker in the Wiregrass out of Alabama, we would be more than wiped out.
Our senior senator, Richard Shelby, has been the salvation for sustaining and saving our sacred military facilities. Shelby has not only been Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, but he also retained the Chairmanship of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee. He has made the difference for Redstone, Maxwell, and Rucker for the last decade. But, folks, Shelby is retiring at the end of next year, and Alabama will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
I am here to tell you that national defense spending is significant to Alabama, but more importantly, it is vitally important to our nation’s security and future. Senator Shelby sounds the alarm as the senate is crafting the next fiscal year’s budget. He is saying you cannot adhere to the Biden Democratic calls to cut defense spending.
The national defense strategy provides a roadmap for our Department of Defense. Unfortunately, the Democrats efforts to undermine the importance of strategic, long-term defense readiness plays into the hands of our competitors China and Russia. The Democratic Biden Administration budget proposal would allow Russia and China to overmatch our investments in readiness, state-of-the-art equipment, and technology.
China seeks hegemony militarily, technologically, financially and is making unprecedented investments to see that come to fruition. Russia is also quietly building a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30% over the last ten years. We must outpace Russia and China in defense spending. Our state, and more importantly our nation, must adhere to Senator Shelby’s admonition that we as a nation cannot afford to cut military spending as President Biden and liberal Democratic Senators in Washington are advocating.
The two things that our country still does best and indeed the two most important things we need to do best are having the most superior military in the world and the ability to grow our own food and fiber. Military and Agriculture are America’s salvation, and, by the way, defense dollars and agriculture are Alabama’s salvation.
We as Alabamians can and should look closely as to who can and will work the hardest to protect defense and agriculture when we vote for the person to succeed Senator Richard Shelby in Washington in the U.S. Senate. That person would not be Mo Brooks.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us