NDAA Contains Key Wins That Don’t Make National Headlines
‘The ball is now in the Biden Administration’s court, and time is ticking away. Russia and other bad actors are actively courting the junta. The ongoing humanitarian disaster in Burma is already spilling over into neighboring countries. Congress has given President Biden the tools to institute sweeping sanctions against our adversaries and generous aid for our friends. It’s now up to the President to use them.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding national defense:
“Last week, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a landmark step forward for our Armed Forces. This year’s bill was named for our distinguished departing colleague, Ranking Member Inhofe.
“As I’ve discussed at length, this year’s NDAA was a major step in the right direction to keep the U.S. the world’s preeminent superpower.
“But another aspect that doesn’t get enough attention is the ways that Congress’s role in defending America also directly benefits military communities across each of our home states.
“My home state of Kentucky is home to major Army installations like Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, the Kentucky Air and Army National Guard, and indispensable pillars of America’s defense industrial base.
“This year’s NDAA provides record resources for those Kentuckians who support and serve in our Armed Forces.
“Of special note in this year’s bill is its full funding of the Chemical Demilitarization Pilot Program at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky.
“If all goes according to plan, the Depot could wrap up its chemical weapon destruction mission by next year. That will be a landmark milestone in Kentucky history.
“When I took office, many of America’s most potent chemical munitions were languishing at the Richmond facility. Community activists were understandably concerned about the dangerous weapons in their backyard and asked me to help coordinate the massive effort needed to get rid of them.
“Working with those local leaders, I’ve spent the past four decades securing federal funding for the chemical munitions destruction mission. And now, the end of that project is within reach.
“This year’s NDAA also authorizes a feasibility study to help local authorities plan for the future of the Depot after the chemical weapon destruction mission wraps up. That study will identify opportunities to enhance Richmond’s role as a defense logistics node and identify new missions for its world-class facilities once chemical weapons are gone.
“And that’s just one of the many important initiatives this year’s NDAA will support in the Commonwealth. Kentucky’s servicemembers and military installations stand ready to protect America from its enemies.
“The defense bill also impacts a huge number of America’s efforts for good around the world that don’t always make top headlines. For example, I’m glad this NDAA makes headway on behalf of the people of Burma, and the decades-long struggle for democracy in that country, which I’ve been proud to support throughout my career.
“Since Burma’s military junta launched a coup in early 2021, the country has plunged deeper into catastrophe.
“More than 1 million people displaced. Sham trials and summary executions. The extrajudicial torture and murder of many more. Indiscriminate shelling and air strikes against ethnic villages.
“Burma’s former leader – and my good friend – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is reportedly being held in solitary confinement following a sham trial at the hands of her deposers. And in the absence of strong international condemnation, the junta is literally getting away with murder.
“When Secretary Blinken visited Southeast Asia this summer, I called for less talk and more action. The people of Burma don’t have the luxury of waiting around for American assistance.
“Now, with the passage of the Burma Act as part of this year’s NDAA, Congress is stepping up where the Administration has dithered.
“This landmark bill mandates sharp sanctions against senior Tatmadaw officials and the state-owned businesses that keep their coffers full.
“It compels the Administration to make decisions about whether and how to unravel the junta’s lucrative grip on Burma’s energy sector.
“It codifies U.S. support for organizations that actually represent Burma’s people and authorizes new engagement with ethnic organizations that are defending the people against the brutal hand of the Tatmadaw, as well as new non-lethal and humanitarian assistance for society organizations.
“It directs the President to improve coordination with America’s allies and partners to increase pressure on Burma’s illegitimate leaders and direct support to Burma’s people.
“But Congress can only do so much through the legislative process.
“The ball is now in the Biden Administration’s court, and time is ticking away.
“Russia and other bad actors are actively courting the junta. The ongoing humanitarian disaster in Burma is already spilling over into neighboring countries.
“Congress has given President Biden the tools to institute sweeping sanctions against our adversaries and generous aid for our friends.
“It’s now up to the President to use them.”
Related Issues: America's Military, National Security, NDAA, Burma