ICYMI: Inhofe Speaks about NDAA on Senate Floor: "It’s what we have to do to defend America"

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Mr. President I think it is kind of unprecedented that you would have the in this case, the acting chairman and the ranking member to be so close together on what we've attempted to do and I think it's worthwhile as Senator Reed did bring up that we had the committee hearing on this and it is very rare that we come out as we did in that we actually did that in one day. One day—it took nine hours total.

I'm not sure if that's some kind of a record or not but it shows that we are working very well together and I was hoping that would go ahead and take care of this today.

We are now going to start discussing this bill. I think it’s more important now since we've lost the opportunity to move to the bill and actually start in on amendments, to at least talk about what we are anticipating.   

Today the Senate will begin the consideration of the bill even though we are not on the bill, we can still talk about it and this is the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

I can remember a few years ago, we got very close to the middle of December or the end of December, which is the absolute deadline to get it down for the fiscal year and we had to the big four and we got it done, got it passed. Well, we don't want to do that now, we want to do it the right way and we want to consider all the amendments because on that year we got the bill, but we didn't consider any amendments.

And you know, you can talk to any of the members, a lot of times, there are a lot of closed meetings, we talked about the necessity to get the amendments opened up so that anyone could offer an amendment and of course they were denied doing it at that time, but now we are still in a position can do it. It has put it off about a week.

This the most important piece of legislation that we pass every year.

I would like to thank, one more time, Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for his work on this and that fact that we were able to do it so rapidly—as we did.

I also want to thank the Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, for not only bringing the NDAA to the floor this week, but his willingness to do so under regular order—that's what we wanted and we're able to do it.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank the Committee Chairman, Senator John McCain, for his strong leadership in the preparation of the NDAA this year as he has done each year for a long period of time.

Make no mistake—he may not be here today, but this is his bill—his priorities, his policy objectives are in this bill. This year’s NDAA is a true embodiment of what Chairman McCain has worked to advance during his decades of service and tenure as chairman of this Committee. It deserves to bear his name and it does bear his name.

We are all keeping Chairman McCain in our hearts and in our prayers as he continues to prove that he is the fighter we all know him to be. I'm sure he's watching right now and, Senator McCain, we all know the fighter you are, there's no one else like you and so we want you to continue that fight.

The NDAA represents some of the finest traditions of this body. For 57 years, Congress has passed this vital legislation to authorize funding and provide the necessary authorities for our military to protect this great nation.

I am proud that the Senate Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly passed this bill. At one point we had 300 amendments that we were able to sit down, reason together, incorporate several of them into a managers package and come to the floor and actually passed it overwhelmingly out of committee.

The NDAA is more than just a piece of legislation. It is a message to each and every one of our service members that you are our number one priority. That’s why I didn’t like the idea that there’s an objection to moving on to thus bill today. I was with them all last week, those who are overseas. Telling them what we were going to do, why it has the top priority and unfortunately this sends the wrong message to them.

But it’s more than just a piece of legislation, it’s what we have to do to defend America. After all, the number one thing we should be doing here in the House and the Senate is defending America.

The FY19 NDAA keeps faith with our troops. It authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise—the largest in 10 years. In some small way it honors their enormous sacrifice.

In total, the NDAA supports $716 billion in fiscal year 2019 for national defense. It authorizes a base defense budget of $639 billion for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy along with $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. It all adds up to, you've got $716 billion. And that's what we should be doing around here, we're glad we got to the point where we can give the top priority to defending our nation as it should have always been.

This is funding an important step toward recovering from years of cuts in our defense budget under the Budget Control Act and sequestration that harmed our military readiness and slowed down our modernization efforts.

Meanwhile, while sequestration has held us back, but it has not held our adversaries back. All the time that we were held back over the last ten years, our competition out there, Russia and China, they haven't been holding back. And that's why I said, in areas such as the artillery, they're ahead of us.

The goal, as always, is to provide our warfighters with the resources and capabilities they need—and to do so on time, on schedule, and at a reasonable cost.

• The legislation authorizes:

o $23 billion for shipbuilding to fund 10 new construction battle force ships;

o Procurement of 117 naval aviation aircraft;

o $7.6 billion to procure 75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters;

o $2.3 billion to procure 14 KC-46s;

o $350 million to procure Air Force light attack aircraft;

o Procurement of 117 Army helicopters;

o $70 million to prototype the next generation combat vehicle; and

o $100 million each for Marine Corps light attack aircraft and Group 5 Unmanned Aerial System.

o $10 billion for the Missile Defense Agency

And that's finally getting us up where we have fallen behind during the last administration, might as well say it, as it is. Now we have everyone agreeing that this is good. This is in the bill. In the bill that we have unnecessarily postponed for another week.

Along the way, the NDAA makes adjustments to the administration’s budget request to ensure programs are sustainable and accountable, protecting taxpayer dollars.

It also takes steps to ensure we are prepared for a world defined by strategic competition with China and Russia, addressing China’s militarization of the South China Sea and deterring Russia’s military aggression and cyber attacks.

The NDAA requires the DOD to fill gaps in cruise missile defense, key to defending against Chinese and Russian threats, and maximizes as many munitions production lines as possible—particularly those specific to the high-end fight.

It supports implementation of the Nuclear Posture Review by authorizing $65 million to develop a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Finally, the NDAA supports our allies and partners around the world. It authorizes $5.2 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.

For the fight against terrorism, it authorizes $1.2 billion in funding for counter-ISIS efforts via the “train and equip” programs in Iraq and Syria.

It authorizes $6.3 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative and $200 million for security assistance to Ukraine, including defensive lethal assistance.

It authorizes $500 million for Israeli cooperative missile defense programs.

And it includes the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act that was adopted by the Senate Banking Committee, which will give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States the authority it needs to address national security concerns.

As we move forward to consider the FY19 NDAA, we must all remember that our primary constitutional responsibility is to provide for the common defense.

We must also face the facts: this is the most dangerous world we have ever faced. The military advantage we once enjoyed has eroded, and we cannot delay modernization of our capabilities.

Today, our nation commemorates the 74th anniversary of D-Day. The brave Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy embody the spirit that continues to inspire the service and sacrifice of so many—fighting, sometimes against insurmountable odds, in the name of freedom--and we won.

I urge my colleagues to keep in mind the meaning of this day throughout the consideration of this legislation.

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 will help reassert a quantitative and qualitative military advantage over our potential adversaries.

It is my hope, and the hope of Ranking Member Reed that we can move forward with an open amendment process. I encourage all of my colleagues to file their amendments as soon as possible, and to come and speak about their amendments on the floor.

We are committed to working with you to include as many as possible in managers packages. For those that can’t be done that way, we want to work to see about setting up votes. So please file your amendments as soon as possible and talk with us, have your staff talk with ours, so we can get this process moving forward.