As the Chinese buy new ships, planes, and armored vehicles, the United States under Obama seems content to stand still. At the very least, the nation should have a quantitative edge in the latest weapons. To that end, the administration should halt the retirement of equipment (including planes and ships) and also build new equipment. If he does not follow this path, Obama will have made America’s task in a potential war with China more difficult.

In World War II, when the United States built a navy second to none, our military had a running start with the Naval Expansion Act of 1938 and the Two-Ocean Navy Act of July 1940 — bills passed long before the attack on Pearl Harbor. But even with that running start, most of those ships did not arrive on the front lines until mid-1943 or later, and many sailors and Marines paid the price in blood for America’s failure to prepare. Who will pay the price today, in the event of military conflict?

New naval construction and the overhauling of older assets also have an important side benefit: new jobs. Spending dollars this way is not the “weaponized Keynesianism” that critics decry. It’s simply a prudent investment — certainly more prudent than the taxpayer dollars lavished on Solyndra, A123, and other green-energy “investments.”