Military leaders and troops deserve timely defense bill

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 15, 2015

Congress’s recent enactment of the “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) comes at a critical time for U.S. leadership. Russia has launched air strikes in Syria, and the Islamic State continues to expand its brutal influence across the Middle East. Our military leaders and troops deserve a defense plan that ensures they are prepared to meet new and widespread challenges.
The defense authorization bill would provide this plan, offering a comprehensive outline of policies and reforms for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy’s national security programs. The legislation is also an important part of the budget process in authorizing the funding levels for the annual defense appropriations bill. This year’s NDAA matches the President’s budget request of $612 billion.
Sequestration Brings National Security Risk
President Obama’s threat to veto NDAA detracts from the bipartisan consensus that led to the bill’s passage by Congress. Despite initial disagreements, 8 Democrats joined 14 Republicans to vote in favor of the defense bill when it was considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee. This version of the bill went on to pass the full Senate by a vote of 71-25 – months earlier than NDAA has reached the floor in recent years under Democratic leadership. On Oct. 7, the House-Senate conference report was adopted by a vote of 70-27.
At the core of the President’s opposition to the bill is the use of overseas contingency funds to continue operations in the war on terror. President Obama objects to the use of these funds for defense since the same budget flexibility is not being extended to his domestic agenda. This ignores the fact that providing for the common defense is the sole responsibility of the federal government and involves the security of our troops. Earlier this year, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it this way: “If we go into sequestration, we’ll be unable to support the current strategy that we have to protect our nation.”
Much-Needed Reforms
The President is our nation’s commander in chief, and his top priority should be the safety of Americans at home and abroad, especially those defending freedom in perilous parts of the world. This year’s defense authorization bill would offer our service members the vital resources they need to carry out their missions. It would also implement major reforms, from updating the military retirement system to increasing accountability in the weapons acquisition program. Without NDAA, our military would not be able to build or renovate military buildings and housing for troops.
As Chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, I was directly involved in crafting provisions to the defense legislation that would advance the capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps. This includes continued support for shipbuilding and the creation of a modernized fleet that benefits both the taxpayer and the warfighter.
This marks the 54th consecutive year that members of both political parties have reached an agreement on NDAA. The same spirit of bipartisan cooperation is now needed from the President. Our troops should not have to shoulder any more sacrifices because of a political disagreement. Instead, our men and women in uniform deserve a solution that truly fixes sequestration’s devastating impact on defense and national security.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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