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Defending the Electoral College and the Constitution since 2009

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Can states defend the nation?
Trent England • Apr 30, 2024

National defense is the ultimate national issue. Yet just as the national government is obliged to defend the states (see Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution), the states also play key roles in defending our nation. This is more true today than ever before, as our connected and mobile world can put states on the frontlines of global conflicts.

Foreign adversaries operate within the states, using “soft power” to influence educational institutions, economic power to gain access to American infrastructure, and sometimes more direct espionage and even sabotage. The question today is not whether states will play a role in twenty-first century conflicts, but whether that role will be productive—making Americans safer from current and future threats.

Consider critical infrastructure. The federal government is responsible for securing military installations, but state and local governments regulate land use adjacent to those facilities. (Local officials last year blocked a Chinese company from locating a facility near an Air Force base in North Dakota.) Federal regulators have some authority over major infrastructure, especially networks that reach across state lines. But state regulators are right there, “on the ground,” often with much greater authority and certainly with more local knowledge.

Another area where states play a key role is countering influence operations, where foreign adversaries seek to manipulate public opinion or key individuals. An example of inaction that has enabled such operations by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in education, which is governed by states. After the FBI raised concerns about CCP espionage and influence operations in higher education, Florida enacted a law to increase transparency of foreign funding and other foreign connections in its universities.

State legislatures should require scrutiny of foreign funds that flow into their educational institutions. State officials should be wary of foreign adversaries seeking to use “soft power” to influence American public opinion or to bully expatriates who fled foreign regimes. Like it or not, states are on the front lines and it’s time for them to act like it.