One of the primary obligations of Congress, as set forth in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, is to “provide for the common defense” of our nation. For the past 56 years, Congress has met this obligation primarily through the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Through this bipartisan legislation Congress provides our armed forces the resources they need to defend our nation.
The House of Representatives passed the NDAA for fiscal year 2018 on July 14. At a time when the media only seems to cover divisive issues, it is worth noting the NDAA passed by a vote of 344 to 81. This bill begins to rebuild military strength after nearly a quarter of the defense budget was cut in the last half-decade.
In addition to funding more troops, equipment, supplies and training, the bill provides support for families and sets national security policy. It also acknowledges North Dakota’s prominent role in defending our nation’s freedoms with continued support of the Air Force Bases in Minot and Grand Forks, and our state’s Air and Army National Guard.
Two years ago Congress began passing reforms to the Department of Defense (DOD), and this bill continues these reforms. With strong bipartisan support, Congress has made updates to the military retirement system, improved military health care and made commissary benefits more efficient. We have streamlined the DOD bureaucracy and given the Pentagon more tools to make better business decisions, such as providing more options and greater transparency to buying goods and services at lower prices.
The NDAA boosts defense spending by 10 percent from last year’s level to $696.1 billion, including $621.5 billion for base spending. It provides the Army, Navy, and Air Force with their request for thousands of additional personnel to help restore our forces to full strength. And, it increases missile defense funding by $2.5 billion to provide further protection from advanced, long-range missiles.
While it increases defense spending by 10 percent, the bill requires the Pentagon to begin a long-overdue audit to cut the fat from the DOD to ensure taxpayer dollars are used efficiently.
This bill puts America back on track by confronting the readiness crisis in our military branches. Today our Army is the smallest it has been since before World War II. The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have been forced to trade parts from their ships and planes to keep others in working order. As House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry often says, “We have too many planes that cannot fly, too many ships that cannot sail and too many soldiers who cannot deploy.”
This bill acknowledges the resolve of Congress that it will no longer add more military missions without giving our service members all they need to succeed.
Here are some highlights of the NDAA supporting our military and funding North Dakota programs:
- Authorizes the full budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons activities, including vital efforts to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile. The bill authorizes $21 billion for nuclear weapon programs – including modernization of the infrastructure that supports the nuclear triad.
- Includes $27 million for an indoor firing range at Minot Air Force Base
- Makes an additional allocation of $326 million for MQ-9 UAS modifications, and $746 million for RQ-4 Global Hawk upgrades.
- Authorizes a 2.4 percent pay raise for our troops – a plus for the thousands of soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors who serve in our state
- Directs the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to establish an intelligence fusion center to enhance the protection of nuclear command and control
- Does not allow for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)
- Commissions the DOD and National Guard to study the effectiveness of uses of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for National Guard operations
Through the NDAA, House Republicans are reaffirming their commitment to the safety and security of our nation. This bill is about meeting our responsibilities to defend this country by using taxpayer dollars wisely and stressing the importance of rebuilding our military.
The strength of America’s military comes from the dedicated men and women who volunteer to keep our nation safe and secure every day. I am proud of the vital role North Dakota continues to play in the defense of our nation and freedom around the globe. Our commitment to them and their families must be very clear – when they are called into battle they will have every resource and tool they need to accomplish their mission and return home safely.