The military strength of the United States is rated as only marginal in a new report from The Heritage Foundation, and the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate finds that disturbing.

“As the index indicates, the United States is facing increasing global threats in all domains of warfare,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said of the 2019 Index of U.S. Military Strength during an event marking its release Thursday at the think tank’s Capitol Hill headquarters.

“I will be the first to admit that the world has changed since I have served in the military,” said Ernst, who served for more than 23 years, including as a company commander in Iraq and Kuwait, leading 150 soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The threats of near-peer adversaries, once assumed contained, have re-emerged, and they have had technological intersections that are now clearer and present, rather than hypothetical and futuristic,” she said.

“I strive to be a voice for individual service members across the service branches,” Ernst said. “They know it, they see it, they breathe it, and they understand perhaps better than anyone the successes and the failures of the national security policies that we put forth in Washington, D.C.”

“Lives are lost, and wars are won, on whether a new handgun fires, or whether the armor fits correctly, or if a weapon system is completed in a timely manner,” she added.

“Terrorism and extremist groups are not going away,” Ernst said. “The United States must retain our counterterrorism capabilities and lean more on our allies to keep America and its interests secure.”

Ernst said U.S. leadership must be cognizant that other, seemingly unrelated issues also affect national security.

“What we continue to see in terms of emerging threats is a continued blending of civilian concerns with our national security threats,” she said.

“Issues like trade, technology, and the economy cannot be walled off from our considerations with defense policy,” Ernst said. “Our allies and adversaries do not view these items in a vacuum, and certainly, we should not either.”

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