U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about S. 1790, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, after the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the legislation.
As Prepared for Delivery:
Over the next few days, the Senate will be considering the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This is the most important bill we’ll debate all year.
There is an old document no one reads anymore called the Constitution, and it says what we’re supposed to be doing here – number one on the list defending America.
And now, this bipartisan bill is more important than ever.
The world is more unstable and dangerous than any time in my lifetime. The National Defense Strategy gave it to us straight: strategic competition with China and Russia; continuing threats from rogue countries like Iran and North Korea, and terrorist organizations; new technology and new warfighting domains in outer space and cyber space; not to mention, years of underfunding under the previous Administration.
When you think about the last Administration, if you look at, using fiscal year 2018 dollars and you want to take the last five years in the previous Administration, 2010 had an appropriation, using constant dollars, of $794 billion; 2015, five years later, was $586 billion. So you stop and think about that. I can’t think of any bureaucracy that’s gone down that much and that’s taken that much of a dive in that period of time—we’re talking about 20 percent.
So we’re facing that—that’s the reality. That’s what we’re doing right now in trying to get our defense authorization bill. Again, it will pass. It’s one of the few things that you can do that you know it’s going to pass. It’s passed for the last 58 years, and it’s going to pass this year, too.
We’re facing a real national security crisis. There are real threats to our military and our way of life, and we have to be ready to meet—and defeat—these threats.
We’ve got to continue rebuilding our military, catching up with our competitors and making strategic and holistic improvements to our national defense. I said “catch up." That clearly states that we’re not ahead right now.
Using the National Defense Strategy Commission Report as our blueprint, this year’s NDAA pursues “urgent change at significant scale” to meet the needs of our nation.
Our military leaders have said time and time again that stable, predictable, on-time funding is the single most important way Congress can help support a strong national defense.
We did this last year, and we’re going to do it again this year.
This is incredibly important as we stare down the barrel of sequestration cuts that would, in the words of former Air Force Secretary Wilson, “be absolutely devastating in scope and scale.” Not just her, but others have come before us, and they say, “if we were to be subjected to sequestration, it would undo all the corrections that have been made in the last two and a half years.” This would undo all the work we’ve done to rebuild our readiness.
I’m talking about fiscal years ‘18 and ’19.
We also know that continuing resolutions are no way to do business, especially for our military.
Not only would we be wasting money and hindering readiness and modernization, but we’d be hurting the morale of our troops.
I know this firsthand. When I go out to visit military installations in Oklahoma, across the country or around the world, I sit down with the commanders and base leaders, sure.
But what I also do, is I go eat in the mess halls with service members – and it isn’t because of the food. It’s because I want to hear from them. And they watch these fights we have here and it really matters to them that they get sufficient, on-time funding.
The NDAA is the first step in the process of getting them that military funding. This year, we provide for a total of $750 billion to ensure our troops have the resources they need to defend our nation.
This represents the bare minimum of funding needed to meet the goals outlined in the NDS Commission report—which calls for a 3-5 percent increase each year to strengthen and modernize our force.
The NDAA aligns our defense resources and policies with the National Defense Strategy.
Fully funding our military—that is $750 billion—means we’ll be more ready to address great power competition with China and Russia. We’re seeing our military lose ground. Anything less would keep us from regaining our combat advantage and deter aggression.
Fully funding the NDAA lets us make technological advances in areas like missile defense technologies, hypersonic weapons, 5G, quantum sciences and artificial intelligence to keep us on pace—and surpass—these adversaries.
We can’t plan to fight the wars of tomorrow with the weapons and equipment of yesterday.
The NDAA fully funds the nuclear modernization program at or above the request, including the nuclear triad, and directs funding to procure critical equipment. The nuclear modernization program has been suffering for a long period of time. A lot of people are saying they look at the triad system, and they assume that that’s somehow a redundancy. Well, it’s not. It talks about systems that can project a nuclear weapon. There are three different classifications, and that’s what the triad’s all about. It’s not as if you can take one or two out of it and still do the job.
So we have in this bill: 94 Joint Strike Fighters; 12 new battle force ships; 105 naval aircraft; new air craft for the Air Force, including 15-KC46As; and new helicopters for the Army, including 9 CH-47 Chinooks.
We’ve also got to be prepared to meet challenges in new domains. Space is one of those. As General Raymond, who’s nominated to lead U.S. Space Command, told our committee, our superiority in space is questionable and simply not guaranteed.
Our society relies on satellites and space technologies. We need to address this problem now, before it is too late, and I’m glad President Trump has made this a key initiative.
We took President Trump’s directive to establish a Space Force and came up with a bipartisan plan to establish a force that meets our needs in space.
Our bill would stand up the U.S. Space Force in the Air Force. This will create a cohesive strategy to protect our interests in space, improve how we acquire space assets and improve our space warfighting culture. People are saying, of all the things we’re doing right now, we’re doing a lot things in space. What does this do that we’re not doing currently? My answer is nothing—we’re doing it all now. But this would allow us to do it better.
Our plan prevents additional costs and bureaucracy, and will get us off on the right foot to better fulfill our missions in space.
The legislation also implements policies that will change the way the Pentagon is run, allowing it to respond more nimbly and effectively to the current defense landscape.
Last, but arguably the most important, the NDAA makes our all-volunteer force—the backbone of our national defense—the biggest priority. I happen to be one of the few people—in fact I think I’m the only one in this Senate chamber—who is a product of the draft. You know, back in the day, we didn’t have an all-volunteer force, and I came here absolutely convinced that was the best way to go until I started seeing the products we have out there. When you go out and see these kids and what they’re doing—it’s just pretty amazing how effective they are. They are truly the backbone of our national defense.
Even though our military advantage may have been diminished, what hasn’t changed is that our troops are the best in the world.
We have to continue to look out for them. It’s one of the biggest ways we stand apart from our adversaries or actors like Russia or China. They don’t care about their people. We do. A lot of times, I hear people telling me, “why is it we have to spend so much money on defense? We’re spending more money than Russia and China.” Yeah, that’s real easy—the largest single expense in putting together a military is what? It’s the end strength, it’s the people. We care about the people. We make sure that we are doing things that are good for the people.
The NDAA provides for a 3.1 percent pay raise for our troops—that’s the largest pay raise in a decade.
We improve the quality of life for troops and their families—making sure our troops have quality health care and a solid roof over their heads.
Just a few months ago, our committee became aware of some really egregious problems happening in privatized military housing: pests, mold, radon gas, some had the roofs falling down around them.
So we worked with the Services to get them to clean up their act, and now in this legislation, we implement some policy provisions that will address all the problems we’ve seen with privatized on-base housing.
This includes creating a Tenant Bill of Rights, holding private housing partners accountable and ensuring each installation has the right personnel to careful oversight.
Overall, we make sure that our military has the infrastructure to support it. Within the funding for military construction, $3.6 billion is set aside to replenish funds that may be used to build a wall at the southern border under the President’s emergency declaration.
As I said before, this is legislation that all of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, can support. Defense needs to be our number one priority. We may not agree on everything, but we can definitely agree on that.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the bill on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis—25 to 2 and in only six hours.
We completed this work quickly, less than two months after receiving the administration’s budget request. It was my goal to get this done as soon as possible, and I thank our committee and staff for helping get this done.
We all understand the importance of this bill. The committee considered 433 amendments, and approved nearly 300 of them. Our markup took just over six hours because of our shared commitment to working together.
I want to thank the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Reed, and every member of the Committee for their work in passing this critical legislation.
I also want thank the Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, for his leadership and for continuing to fight for a budget deal that includes a strong topline for our defense.
I look forward to continuing this fair and collaborative process on the floor in the coming days. We’re going to consider amendments. Both Sen. Reed and I want an open amendment process. Then, we’re going to pass this bill for the 59th straight year in a row.
For nearly six decades, Congress has understood the necessity of a strong, capable, lethal force. The main reason America is the leader of the free world is because of our military might. Our Armed Forces are the very best in the world.
Our leadership and values paved the way for liberty, prosperity, and security across the globe. We preserve peace through our strength.
But freedom isn’t free. If we want to preserve this vital role—a role that guarantees a future of freedom and democracy for our children and grandchildren—we’ve got to prioritize our national security. That’s what we’ve done with this NDAA, and that’s why all of my colleagues should support it.