Lamborn HASC hearing

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, listens during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in this undated photo provided by his congressional office. Lamoborn takes over as chairman of the committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces in the 118th Congress.

The congressman who represents El Paso County and its iconic military installations says his role chairing a key House subcommittee means he'll be better positioned to advocate for robust national security while promoting the interests of his district.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, was reelected to a ninth term last fall and won the gavel on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces last week under the GOP's new majority. He served as the panel's ranking member — the minority party's senior lawmaker — in the last Congress.

With a portfolio that encompasses nuclear weapons, missile defense and the military's mission in space, Lamborn said one way to understand the subcommittee's domain is that it has influence over "weapons systems that will deter a nation from ever attacking the United States."

"I can't think of a better way of representing the interests of the 5th Congressional District, as well as the entire defense of the United States, at the same time," Lamborn said in an interview with Colorado Politics.

Calling hypersonic weapon systems "the next frontier," Lamborn said that the cutting-edge technology — maneuverable rockets and missiles that travel at least five times faster than the speed of sound — will be a top priority for the subcommittee.

"At one point, we created and were in the lead on this, decades ago, but we kind of let it go," Lamborn said. "Now China and to some extent Russia have surpassed us, and we need to play catch-up."

He said the Pentagon needs to beef up its ability to test the weapons right away. 

"We have very limited testing capability. We do have some promising things that are being worked on, on the drawing board, and prototypes are being built, but we don't have operational systems in hypersonics at all," he said.

Congress will have to allocate more money to get those next-generation weapons on track, Lamborn said, but that additional spending will likely be minor compared to what he described as more expensive ongoing upgrades to nuclear weaponry.

"With hypersonics, we're only talking about a few billion dollars compared to some of the big-ticket items," he said. "The more expensive thing that comes within our committee that has a lot of dollars attached to it is nuclear modernization."

That program, begun during the Obama administration, involves updating aging weapons that are part of the nation's nuclear triad, including land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, long-range missiles carried on submarines, and long-range bombers equipped with nuclear cruise missiles and bombs.

"Those are all needing to be modernized, and that's expensive," Lamborn said. "So that is the big-ticket dollar item that we are needing to make sure stays robust."

Lamborn said he's keeping an eye on China's aggressive moves into the nuclear arena, where the country has recently become a "major player."

"China is is now breaking out when it comes to nuclear forces," Lamborn said. "Now they are trying to equalize or surpass the U.S. in terms of numbers of nuclear warheads and other strategic assets."

Lamborn said he's concerned that the U.S. is more in the dark than it should be on that front, since China isn't a party to international arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia. 

"They're really building up their forces fast, and they're a wild card right now," he said. "I'm very concerned about that, and that's a real priority for our subcommittee."

Lamborn added that he plans to press the Biden administration on their response to the threat, which he characterized as inadequate.

"We'll be bringing them before us, putting them on the hot seat," he said.

Lamborn said he anticipates the Pentagon budget won't be affected much if at all by House Republican demands for sweeping budget cuts in exchange for raising the federal debt ceiling, which allows the government to borrow money to meet obligations that have already been approved.

"I think at the end of the day, defense will be protected because there's strong bipartisan agreement, and that we live in a dangerous world and it's not getting any safer for the foreseeable future," Lamborn said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.