John Kasich: How to make America secure

Story highlights

  • John Kasich: U.S. must maintain its security in world; economic growth is key to keeping military strong
  • He says U.S. needs leadership to build military and alliances, engage adversaries and be willing to project force decisively if needed

The author is the governor of Ohio and served 18 years on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. He is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)No realistic look at the world today will leave us feeling good about America's security.

Terrorism is increasingly striking here at home. Regional powers are challenging the postwar security order. Nuclear weapons are proliferating. Cyberspace has become a battlefield. The U.S. has neglected both our military and our alliances and has apparently decided, instead, to try to lead from behind.
America urgently needs vision, stronger policies and the means to implement them to restore our nation's international standing and leadership.
    John Kasich
    The economy is the forgotten starting point for this discussion.
    In my 18 years as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I never met a president who understood the link between a strong economy and strong national security better than Ronald Reagan. He was relentless in pursuing economic growth because he knew it would allow us to rebuild our military and win the Cold War. Putting Reagan's wisdom to work today means taking on America's $18 trillion debt and $463 billion deficit -- the two greatest barriers to the economic growth it takes to keep us safe.
    That is why I support a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. When Washington takes up less space in the economy, job creators have more room to thrive. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I led the last successful effort to balance the federal budget, and as governor of Ohio, I closed an $8 billion budget shortfall without increasing taxes. The next president must know how to balance budgets and keep them balanced, because it is the first thing we must do to keep America safe.
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    Our second priority must be renewing our Navy. Other services have legitimate needs too, but reinvigorating the Navy's ability to project power globally is critical to defending and advancing American interests, including ensuring the free flow of global commerce.
    Those who mistakenly think they can deny access to a corner of the world -- particularly in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf -- need another visit from a carrier battle group to remind them that the global commons are, in fact, just that: the world's shared real estate.
    The other global commons in need of defense are cyberspace. We need new tools and strategies to make cyberspace safe for commerce and the peaceful exchange of news and information.
    Even with a stronger military, there is always greater safety in numbers. America's relationships with our allies are the backbone of our security because they are political and military force-multipliers. They have been neglected, and America and the world have become less safe as a result.
    Renewing our alliances takes respectful engagement, integrating allied needs as we strengthen our military -- ensuring that all parties pull their own weight -- and candor and discretion. Such alliance cohesion is key: Airing our differences in public -- as the Obama administration has done recently in its well-publicized tensions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- only emboldens our enemies.
    Any action that America takes, or suggests, is more effective if it is reinforced by a stronger military and renewed alliances. With these shored-up alliances, a stronger presence in the Western Pacific, a more aggressive allied stance toward Russia, and decisive allied action to eradicate ISIS would all produce better outcomes, as well as give potential future disruptive actors more pause for thought.
    Making the policy changes that secure our country cannot and should not be done by one party alone. If we want a safer country, we first need the courage to cooperate in our own Capitol and with those who share our fundamental values.
    In my nearly two decades on the House Armed Services Committee, my Democratic and Republican colleagues repeatedly worked together on tough issues like reforming military procurement and streamlining the defense bureaucracy so our troops would have the resources to defend our country. We can and must find a way to come together again so America can be safe.
    The changes I am proposing are admittedly big -- unleashing the economy, strengthening our military and alliances, engaging our adversaries and, if all else fails, being more willing to project force decisively -- but I am confident we can do it, because America's national security transcends partisanship.
    America's power has always been its people, so we should use that power to keep our people safe. Our willingness to strive together, sacrifice together, and serve one another are our essential strengths. To keep us safe and restore American standing and leadership, we must come together again and forge a new consensus around a realistic and sustainable vision for our future national security and the tools with which to implement it.