This, we will defend

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Keeping the American people safe by providing for a strong national defense is the primary obligation of the federal government, and there is no duty I take more seriously in Congress.

To this end, Congress is tasked each year with authorizing funding for our military. I am proud our national defense consistently rises above the partisan fray in Washington, and this week Congress passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act -- for the 54th consecutive year.

Though we have more work to do to reverse the devastating defense cuts from sequestration, we have taken great strides to ensure our nation's security in the face of these deepening fiscal limitations. This agreement makes our military more efficient, takes care of our troops, addresses the multitude of threats we face today, and promotes platforms needed to make our military a lethal threat to our enemies.

The NDAA makes notable reforms to the way our military acquires equipment. By streamlining the antiquated, burdensome approach to acquisition, we are allowing our armed forces to be more agile and prepared to face the emerging threats of today with less wasted time and resources.

We have also taken steps to cut waste across the board. For example, by reducing the amount of required reports, many of which outlive their usefulness, personnel and costly man-hours are saved.

We understand the importance of making sure our troops are well taken care of. We owe them for their selfless sacrifices and willingness to put their lives on the line for our freedom.

The NDAA calls for improvements to the military retirement system.

Currently, 83 percent of our troops do not serve 20 years -- the time needed to collect retirement. The changes we have included in the NDAA will make sure the 83 percentare eligible to participate in a retirement plan.

Additionally, we have included a provision that could allow our troops to carry personal firearms on base. We do not need to relive the tragedies of Little Rock, Chattanooga, and Fort Hood. Those chargedwith protecting our country should be able to protect themselves and others on base.

The United States and her allies are facing a number of threats on even more fronts.

We have included measures to boost our cyber security by funding programs to thwart attacks on our computer systems; address the threat against our interests from Russia by supporting programs to counter its aggression in Eurasia; support our allies such as Ukraine by providing funding for them to arm themselves against aggression from Russia and others; reinforce our efforts against ISIL by making sure those in the fight are well prepared for what they may encounter; and restrict the president's ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo by keeping known terrorists from rejoining the fight against us.

Clearly, our national security is being tested on many fronts and now, more than ever, is the time to bolster our ability to meet the evolving threats of today.

I am also pleased to have secured in this final bill many of the provisions I fought for in the original House version of the NDAA.

The provisions -- the Super Hornets for the Navy which will be built in Missouri, the Consolidated Stealth Operations Center at Whiteman, the preservation of the A-10 attack aircraft, the Long Range Strike Bomber, and the increase in defense funding I fought very hard for -- will not only make our military more agile and effective, but will also ultimately keep Americans safer.

Though Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress have come to an agreement on how best to fund our military, there is much more to be done.

According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, we are already funding our military at the "lower ragged edge" of our ability to execute our military strategy.

Now, with the continuing resolution, which I voted against, our armed forces will see even further reductions to much-needed resources.

I am an ardent supporter of our armed forces, and I will continue to fight to make sure we have the best military in the world.

Given the instability across the globe today, we cannot afford anything less.