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November 06, 2019

ICYMI: Inhofe On Senate Floor: What Kind of Message Are Democrats Sending Our Troops, Allies and Enemies by Delaying Defense Bills?

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about the need to pass defense authorization and appropriations legislation as soon as possible, given the security challenges facing our nation and limited legislative time remaining before the end of the year:

As Prepared for Delivery:

Last week, I came down here and talked about why we needed to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and why a full-year continuing resolution is unacceptable.

I’m back here again, because in the last week, nothing has changed. And that’s not okay.

What kind of message do my Democratic colleagues think they are sending our troops, who lay their lives on the line every day, if we don’t prioritize their pay, their housing, or the programs to care for their families while they’re away?

What kind of message do my Democratic colleagues think they are sending our allies and partners?

They claim we are not supporting our partners in Syria, then turn on a dime and refuse to authorize the very assistance that keeps our partners safe and effective in the fight against ISIS.

What kind of message do my Democratic colleagues think they are sending our adversaries?

China and Russia are trying to become military superpowers. As we deal with the resurgence of strategic competition, they are investing in their militaries — and if my Democratic colleagues have their way, we won’t invest in ours.

For our adversaries, this dysfunction is exactly what they want. They want defense funding mired in partisan debate. They don’t want us to catch up.

If we don’t take action now, partisan bickering over supporting our troops and investing in national security will become our Achilles heel.

At the end of the day, all these challenges won’t just go away just because we want them to.

And to meet these challenges, our troops need the equipment, training, and weapons outlined in our blueprint, the National Defense Strategy commission report.

There’s a quote from General Creighton Abrams, a military leader from World War II on through Vietnam. His name may sound familiar because the Abrams tank is named after him.

He talked about how, after World War II, the U.S. failed to properly modernize and train our military. And who paid for it? Our soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors. They paid for it with their lives.

He said, “The monuments we raise to their heroism and sacrifice are really surrogates for the monuments we owe ourselves for our blindness to reality… for our unsubstantiated wishful thinking about how war could not come.”

So, to say these things can wait while the House goes on another recess, or to use them as a bargaining chip, or to forgo them to instead wage war on our own president — it’s at best a waste of time and resources, and at worst, a dangerous abdication of our constitutional duty.

Unfortunately, the truth is, if we kick the can down on the road on these defense policy and funding bills, we’re just adding another challenge to our plate.

We were off to a great start last year. Defense appropriations were enacted on time for the first time in a decade, and we passed the NDAA at the earliest point in 40 years.

All of the Service leaders who came before the Senate Armed Services Committee said that having on-time appropriations and authorizations was critical to rebuilding the force.

Now, we’ve got the National Defense Strategy and the commission report as a roadmap. We’ve got a budget deal. There’s no reason we can’t get this done. There’s no good reason my Democrat colleagues are dragging their feet.

Our senior military leaders said a continuing resolution is absolutely the worst thing we can do for our defense right now. I know my colleagues in the room heard it same as I did.

So I’m surprised that the Democrats are willing to resort to a full-year CR. It’s throwing in the towel. It’s quitting when our troops need us most.

My Republican colleagues in the House, led by House Armed Services Ranking Member Thornberry, put out this document that talks about how America’s military would be damaged under a full-year CR.

Here are a few examples: It would extend the pilot shortage in our Air Force — extend, because we are still climbing out of our current shortage. It would prevent the military from managing its personnel, including necessary efforts to grow the force, pay for military moves, and lock in bonuses for troops. It would force the Navy to cancel ship maintenance and training—repairs for 14 ships will be canceled. It would worsen the existing munitions shortage by preventing DOD from buying more than 6,000 weapons. We’d fall even further behind our competitors on hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and next-generation equipment that we need to face all the challenges I just talked about.

Not to mention the waste of taxpayer dollars. CRs waste billions of dollars by creating repetitive work, injecting uncertainty in the contracting process, and forcing rushed work at year’s end.

It’s past time to move on defense appropriations and a defense authorization bill. I’ve been trying.

I’ve been meeting with my fellow conferees regularly – more than we ever have before during NDAA negotiations. I’m making sure we have a back-up plan if we can’t reach an agreement on the NDAA. But time is running out.

Here’s the reality: We’ve only got 20 legislative days left in the Senate, and the House has even less, because they are in recess this week.

And if the House sends us articles of impeachment, that will eat up all of our time in December, and it could spill into January.

We don’t have time left. We need to make these bills a priority – the way we always have before.

The NDAA has passed for the last 58 years. It’s the most important thing we’ll do all year.

In June, the Senate bill passed 86-8, and I’m grateful to the Senate Democrats for their partnership and work in creating and passing a bipartisan bill. This happened in line with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee — a traditional that spans almost six decades.

Usually, this is a bipartisan bill. Both sides give and take. So it concerns me to see partisan politics being inserted into this must-pass bill when we go to conference between the House and the Senate.

It concerns me we’re not making more progress on some of the most controversial riders.

It concerns me to see Democrats filibustering Defense appropriations to prove a political point.

It concerns me to see Democrats prioritizing their misguided attempts to undo the results of the 2016 election through impeachment, instead of taking care of our troops with an NDAA.

If we can’t keep defense authorizations free of partisan gridlock, what kind of message does that send American who rely on our troops to protect them?

And what message does that send our troops, who rely on Congress to provide the necessary resources for them to fight effectively and return home safely?

I’ve said this before: The world is watching. We’re sending a message.

What do my colleagues want that message to be?


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