Defense Bill Will Help Rebuild Our Military And Restore Combat Readiness
‘The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation that comes before the Senate each year. It is, after all, the measure that authorizes the resources, the capabilities, and the pay and benefits that our men and women in uniform need to perform their missions. It is always worth remembering that our country fields an all-volunteer force. We owe a special obligation to those who volunteer to fight on behalf of each and every one of us.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation that comes before the Senate each year. It is, after all, the measure that authorizes the resources, the capabilities, and the pay and benefits that our men and women in uniform need to perform their missions. It is always worth remembering that our country fields an all-volunteer force. We owe a special obligation to those who volunteer to fight on behalf of each and every one of us. And this year’s bill — thanks to the good work of the Armed Services Committee under the leadership of Chairman McCain and Ranking Member Reed — passed out of committee with unanimous bipartisan support.
“It recommends a national defense level of authorization that will allow the Department of Defense to begin to rebuild our military and deliver a well-deserved pay raise to our men and women in uniform. That’s especially important today. Our nation faces a myriad of challenges around the world from both state actors and terror organizations that threaten American national security. These growing pressures require that our forces have the training and resources they need to combat those challenges and win.
“And yet, due to a combination of the last administration’s actions and the harmful consequences of sequestration, our military does not have the resources it needs to address the many global challenges before us in either a comprehensive or responsible way. We have to keep faith with the force. So we have to correct this situation, and doing so means equipping our servicemembers with the weapons and the training they need to sufficiently defeat these threats. As I said yesterday, this spring’s government funding bill made an important down-payment toward rebuilding our forces, and the NDAA bill before us can build upon that progress further.
“As we consider the NDAA, I remain firmly committed to supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces, including those stationed in my home state. I am proud to represent three Army installations and the Kentucky Air and Army National Guard. One of these installations, Fort Campbell in Christian County, is home to the 101st Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Since World War II, the 101st Airborne Division has responded to threats around the globe, including most recently during multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. This highly decorated unit, known as the ‘Screaming Eagles,’ is contributing to keeping our nation and our national interests secure. The NDAA will authorize the resources and capabilities to ensure that the troops at Fort Campbell, as a part of the joint force, are prepared to continue responding to threats against our nation.
“Another of Kentucky’s military installations is Fort Knox. With a distinguished history during both World Wars, Fort Knox has remained an essential Army facility with numerous responsibilities. Home to the Army’s Cadet Command, Fort Knox hosts around 10,000 ROTC cadets every summer for Cadet Summer Training. Fort Knox is also home to the Army’s Recruiting Command — a critical mission for increasing readiness — and in 2009, the Army Human Resources Command Center re-located to Fort Knox, bringing with it a new mission. Responsible for career management and development, the Human Resources Command represents a fundamental part of the Army. The NDAA will reform the Pentagon to streamline administration, and it will also take action to improve troop morale and restructure the benefits that servicemembers and their families — like the many stationed in Kentucky — rely upon.
“Kentucky is also home to the Blue Grass Army Depot, located in Madison County. As a munitions storage and disposal site, the Blue Grass Army Depot is responsible for the maintenance, storage, and demilitarization of both conventional and legacy chemical weapons. For decades I have fought to ensure that Congress allocated necessary funds to this installation to support the continuation of safe demilitarization efforts. The NDAA will help us prepare for a wide range of threats, and munitions depots like the one in my state play an integral role in supporting our nation’s efforts to rebuild our military.
“I am also proud to represent the Kentucky Air and Army National Guard — including the 123rd Airlift Wing — which deployed to assist in the relief efforts of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Last week, I had the privilege of welcoming the National Guard Association of the United States to Louisville for their annual conference. These citizen soldiers and airmen have proved time and again that during a crisis at home or abroad, the National Guard is always ready. The NDAA legislation will authorize funds for military construction for National Guard units across the country, including in Kentucky to help the Guard carry out its critical missions.
“As we continue to debate this bill, I will be thinking of the men and women at these military installations in Kentucky and of the Kentucky National Guard. I’ll cast my vote for what will help them receive the equipment, training, and resources they need to address the threats facing our nation. I know many colleagues feel the same way about their own states. I know many colleagues are determined to continue the hard work of rebuilding our military and restoring our combat readiness. Passing the bill before us will take us closer to that goal.
“Later today, the Senate will vote to table an amendment that would rescind the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, that authorizes the operations of forces currently battling Al Qaeda, ISIL and associated forces. Sixteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, our enemies aren’t gone and our troops are still in harm’s way.
“Ayman al Zawahari remains hidden somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan and he continues to lead Al Qaeda as it plots to kill Americans and strike our homeland. And al Qaeda's affiliates have proven to be resilient and lethal. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has not ceased attempting to kill Americans. Its online magazine, Inspire, created a manual for terrorists and set an early example for what ISIL perfected in the use of social media and propaganda.
“ISIL, of course, emerged from Al Qaeda in Iraq – which continues to threaten the United States as does the Nusrah front. To rescind the AUMF that authorizes action against these forces — and to leave nothing but uncertainty for our deployed forces and for our allies — is simply irresponsible, and it breaks faith with our volunteer force.
“Al Qaeda and its affiliates have not been defeated. The myriad programs and operations that rely upon the AUMF for legal authority have contributed to keeping America safe. Why would we vote to rescind the authority to defeat Al Qaeda and leave our forces in the field questioning whether the elected officials here in Washington have any understanding as to what is occurring in the theaters of active hostilities? All that we do to defeat Al Qaeda and ISIL rests on this AUMF.
“We honored those killed on September 11th earlier this week. Let's honor those pursuing terrorists by defeating this amendment and ensuring they have the tools they need to keep us safe. Once again, we have an all-volunteer force that protects all of us, and fights for us. We cannot break faith with these brave men and women by removing the authority they rely upon to pursue the enemy, and leaving them questioning whether elected officials in Washington understand what they are doing abroad.”
Related Issues: NDAA, America's Military