Defense bill shows that business can get done in D.C.

By:  The Oklahoman Editorial Board

AS a longtime hawk on U.S. military matters, Sen. Jim Inhofe was gratified to see President Trump sign the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act this week. “This is the help that we have promised; it is on the way,” Inhofe said.

And it's an example that every once in a while, the trains can run on time in gridlocked Washington, D.C.

The $717 billion legislation came out of conference committee at the end of July and then was passed by wide margins in the House and Senate. Trump signed the bill Monday, marking the earliest approval of the NDAA in four decades.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis applauded both sides of the aisle for the “deep and abiding bipartisan support our military enjoys.” Likewise, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and whose name is in the title of the bill, touted the “bipartisanship and collaboration” evident in the process.

As the senior Republican on the committee after McCain, who is fighting brain cancer, it fell to Inhofe, R-Tulsa, to manage the Senate version of the bill. He worked with ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., in getting the bill through their committee and then through the full Senate where, according to Inhofe's office, 47 bipartisan amendments were adopted. Inhofe then played a leading role during the conference committee process.

McCain and others noted the importance of following regular order and getting the legislation out of the way early. Doing so could reduce the chances that continuing resolutions — which have hampered the the budgeting process throughout government — will be needed for defense.

The NDAA is a winner for current military members because it includes a 2.6 percent pay raise, which would be the largest in nine years. The raises translate to roughly $670 more per year for junior enlisted troops and $1,300 for senior enlisted and junior officers.

In signing the bill, Trump said it would, among other things, boost the size of the military by 15,000, add 13 ships, 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 135 Abrams M1A1 tanks, and 60 Bradley fighting vehicles.

One provision in the bill includes increased procurement and funding of the KC-46 tanker, which will be maintained at Tinker Air Force Base and will see some training conducted at Altus AFB. Inhofe has previously said the bill also will help bases like Vance AFB in Enid improve the resources it uses to train new pilots.

We applaud Inhofe for his work on the NDAA, which Trump described as “the most significant investment in our military and in our warfighters in modern history.” The challenge now is for appropriators in the House and Senate to figure out how to pay for the NDAA before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The significance of getting the authorizing bill approved early won't mean much if appropriation isn't completed and Congress turns again to disruptive continuing resolutions.