Shaheen talks national defense amid Iran hostility

NASHUA – With the nation on the brink of a military conflict with Iran, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, arrived in Nashua to speak with employees of BAE Systems.

“You really do protect those who protect us, and it’s noticed,” Shaheen said of those seated before her in a BAE auditorium on Friday.

BAE is a defense contractor with operations around the globe. Shaheen spoke of the $750 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which her committee approved last month by a vote of 25-2.

After highlighting a few key items included in that bill, Shaheen took questions from employees. One employee asked the senator what she sees as being the country’s biggest challenges ahead when it comes to foreign affairs.

“Right now, the biggest challenge is Iran and how we address that,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen hopes that there will be an effort to reduce hostilities with Iran. She said she supported President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, while expressing her disappointment with President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the agreement. While she believed there were things that could be improved in the deal, Shaheen said it at least allowed the U.S. to have more room for negotiating with Iran.

Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, with U.S. officials placing blame on Iran. More recently, on Thursday, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone. The U.S. is claiming the drone was in international airspace, while Iran claims this drone was over the country’s territory.

While the world awaits the next development in the Iran situation, Trump posted the following message on Twitter on Friday morning:

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”

However, Iran is not the only national security issue the country is currently facing. Shaheen believes as the country deals with a number of these long-term challenges, the single most effective tool in America’s arsenal is the country’s alliances.

She said when looking at the country’s adversaries – with her list including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia – they do not have as many allies as the U.S. does.

Shaheen also said the U.S. should invest not just in national security and the work the BAE employees do, but also training people in the country with higher education and apprenticeships.

For Shaheen, the issue of investments hit home in January when China landed on the dark side of the moon. China is the first country to accomplish this, and at that time, not only did the U.S. not have a project looking into this, NASA researches were furloughed due to the longest government shutdown in the country’s history.

“We can’t afford that kind of inaction in the future because we’re dealing with competitors now,” Shaheen said.

Moreover, a bill also passed through committee which aims to provide assistance at the southern border. Shaheen said it is expected to pass out of the Senate, but would still need the House to agree on it.

Additionally, during her brief visit Friday, she also said cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges the country has, although she believes it s broader than that, sort of the hybrid warfare. Because some of the country’s adversaries are quite good at hybrid warfare, she said the U.S. needs a more forceful response.

“I think some of that has to do with the fact that we live in a democracy, and so, we are much more transparent about what we do, and that’s not what hybrid warfare is about,” Shaheen said.

While Shaheen hopes tensions with Iran de-escalate soon, she said one piece of legislation that can always be counted on to get passed through the House and Senate is the defense bill, which is now awaiting the Appropriations Committee to fund. Some items included in that bill are funding the for B-21 bombers and money to increase the number of F-15X aircraft.

“We increased the number of F-35s that are authorized in the bill,” Shaheen said. “We increased them by 16, so that was above the president’s request.”

She added that some of the items in the defense bill are being worked on by BAE employees in Nashua.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.