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October 29, 2019

Chairman Inhofe On Senate Floor: We Need to Put Our Service Members First - No Matter What

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about his plan to move essential national security legislation if Congress is unable to complete a conference report on full-year defense authorization legislation by the end of the calendar year. The legislation would extend essential, noncontroversial authorities that take care of our troops, support our nation’s defense strategy and protect American families.

 

 Click here to watch Sen. Inhofe’s remarks.

As Prepared for Delivery:

For 58 years, Congress has passed a National Defense Authorization Act with large bipartisan margins. I believe we will do so again this year. We must. If it were up to me, it would have already been done by now. 

I will keep working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this done. I’m going to say that again because there’s a rumor out there to the contrary – we are still working to get a comprehensive bill done, and we’re going to keep working on it. 

It’s even more important because of what happened this weekend. Our brave special operations forces successfully executed a dangerous mission – to get ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. It was the right call by President Trump to bring down one of the most dangerous terrorists, and it was successful. 

It also underscored the importance of the annual defense authorization bill. There is no better time to pass an NDAA that puts our service members and their families first than after a perilous operation demonstrating the bravery, service and sacrifice of our troops.

But to ensure that we give the men and women of the armed forces the tools they need to fight and win no matter what, I will file a “skinny NDAA” today. 

This bill is simple. It extends necessary authorities for military operations, takes care of service members and their families and authorizes essential military construction and acquisition programs. 

That’s it – because at the end of the day, that’s what we have to do by the end of the year. 

There’s this little old document that no one reads anymore – the Constitution. Right up there at the top is the responsibility to provide for the common defense. The NDAA fulfills that most basic constitutional duty. 

Here on Capitol Hill, the NDAA is an institution itself, the last bill of its kind—an authorization bill that passes every year. 

We always have disagreements within and between the parties on the future of national security. But we’ve always managed to overcome those divisions to support our military. This year should be no different. 

Earlier this year, I worked with my Democratic colleague, Senator Reed, to produce a bipartisan NDAA in the Senate. 

It wasn’t the bill that Sen. Reed or I would have written if it were up to us alone. We had to make tough compromises, but because we did, that bill earned overwhelming bipartisan support – 86 to 6.

The same must be true any final agreement on the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA. That bill will require 60 votes here in the Senate, and it will require Republican votes in the House. It can’t pass any other way. It never has before.

While we continue making progress, we know we can’t pass a bill with as many partisan provisions as we saw in the House bill—things like unprecedented restrictions on the president’s ability to defend the nation and putting their liberal social agenda above the needs of our troops. 

Unfortunately, the same problems slowing progress on the NDAA have also stalled the appropriations process. 

When I supported the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, I argued that a lower topline was acceptable if it got us on-time passage of the NDAA and defense funding. 

But now, we are facing a delayed NDAA, and the real possibility of a full-year continuing resolution. This is unacceptable. The Department of Defense has never operated under a full year CR, and the result would be disastrous. 

We know that a full-year CR would press pause on hundreds of new weapons programs and leave tens of billions of dollars in the wrong places. 

For the Army alone, we’d be looking at delays to new start programs and increased costs for 37 programs totaling about $7 billion dollars – according to General Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. 

All said, this would put our work rebuilding our military even further behind and waste enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars.

The National Defense Strategy provided a clear vision of the serious challenges facing us and the necessity of “urgent change at significant scale,” as Secretary Mattis put it. 

Failure to pass an NDAA and accepting a full-year CR would stop our nation’s defense strategy in its tracks. 

It would undo all the good work we’ve done with Secretary Esper and the Pentagon, as well as with our partners, to follow the recommendations of the NDS Commission report. 

This is not just inside the Beltway gridlock. The world is watching. Our allies and our enemies are watching. They want to know if America is serious about its role in the world and its national defense. 

Failure to pass basic legislation on a timely basis to support our military sends a terrible message that undermines our national security. 

Caring for our troops is about the only thing anyone in this town agrees on anymore. If we lose that bipartisan support, it will be hard to get it back. And we need it now more than ever. 

China and Russia are not waiting around for us to end our squabbling. During the last administration, under Obama, our military funding decreased 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Meanwhile, the Chinese have increased military spending by 83 percent over the last decade. 

They are continuing a campaign of aggression, building islands in the South China Sea. Beijing just paraded dozens of massive hypersonic missiles, and we haven’t even built one yet.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop new and dangerous nuclear weapons programs while it expands its influence in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

I have no doubt that a united America can face these challenges. I fear that a divided America—a country that allows defending America to be a partisan issue—cannot. 

The path to a final defense bill is, as it always has been, bipartisan. The defense authorization bill has historically enjoyed broad bipartisan support – that is not an accident. 

Both parties had to compromise to get a bill worthy of our troops’ sacrifice. 

I hope we get to a place where we can find common ground to give our troops and military the comprehensive, full-year defense authorization bill they deserve. 

Again, we are introducing this bill today, because we want to be sure we have it ready in case we can’t reach agreement. If we wait, it will be too late to get it done by year-end.

And if we don’t pass a bill, it will be an unmistakable signal to our adversaries. So we’re doing just the issues we need to defend America.


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