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December 10, 2020

Inhofe: 60th Annual NDAA "Does the Right Thing for Our Troops" in Harm's Way

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021:

Mr. President, I will sound a little redundant here because we’ve been talking about this bill for a long time now, for several months. People don’t realize how long it takes to get a defense authorization bill all the way through the system. There is no doubt in my mind this is the most important bill of the year, every year, and the importance, I think, is pretty well demonstrated by the fact that we have successfully passed a defense authorization bill every year for 60 years. I feel we’ll do the same thing — it could be today, it could be tomorrow, but nonetheless, it’s a bill that has to pass.

Now, when President Trump came into office four years ago, we had a problem. He inherited a military that had been — had serious problems.

In fact, during the last four years of the previous Administration, that would have been 2010 to 2015, the President depleted the budget, reduced the budget for the military by 25 percent. I don’t say that really critically of President Obama because he had different priorities. He was upfront about it and didn’t consider this to be high enough of a priority.

Now the sad thing about this is at the same time he was reducing our military spending by 25 percent, Russia was increasing theirs threefold, and China was increased by 83 percent. So we dropped ours by 25 percent at the same time China increased theirs 83 percent. That’s really serious.

You know, people have this assumption that America has the best of everything and that we don’t have a problem out there, but we do. We found several systems where they were actually getting ahead of us.

So working with Congress to pass the NDAA and appropriations bills, we secured nearly $3 trillion in funding in our nation’s defense. This year alone, his Administration will provide more than $740 billion for the resources our military needs to keep our country and our troops safe.

The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act cements President Trump’s hard work to restore our military to be the best fighting force. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing in America.

The NDAA authorizes critical investments that protect our military advantage across all domains — from the skies to the seas and even now through space, a whole new program.

With the President leadership last year, the NDAA created the Space Force. It’s the first time there’s been a new branch since 1947. That’s happened this year. This year’s NDAA makes sure that it’s set up successfully. One of the things about the Space Force, I think people who are somewhat critical of it, we were doing a good job in space before, without the Space Force, but the fact that we can concentrate all those efforts into one force and be on equal footing — because that’s exactly what our primary problem is out there with China and Russia. They both have what would be in their interpretation a space force, so it was important that we did too, and that was the right thing to do.

This also authorized the procurement of 93 F-35s, the Joint Strike Fighters, to continue the rebuilding of our overworked combat aircraft.

It also includes authorizations for C-130J aircraft, which will modernize our fleet used for transportation, personnel and also for refuelers and things that we have to do in the military. That’s an upgrade of literally the old versions, but the J model C-130 is a great vehicle. We have to have it authorized and all the priorities set. That’s what this bill does.

We also authorize the procurement of nine new battle force ships, including the Virginia-class submarine. We talked about that for a long time, and now we finally are doing that.

Another area we have been doing it is our nuclear forces. Our president has been a champion for our nuclear modernization efforts, and for good reason. Our nuclear deterrent is the cornerstone of our national security. The NDAA ensures that our nation wields a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent by authorizing the resources needed to modernize.

Now, we didn’t do this for a long period of time. We fell behind. This bill is reversing that, and we are getting back into the competition, the nuclear competition. That’s where the real threat is. Everybody knows that.

I think having the best weapons and equipment is critical to be sure, but we also need the infrastructure and manpower to support it. Over the past several years, Congress has provided the military with significant funding increases and authorized to begin and continue critical military construction projects overseas as well as in our country.

These military construction projects can be found everywhere, I mean from Arkansas to South Carolina, Oklahoma to California, Missouri to Massachusetts, all across the country. The investments that we built also improved family housing.

A lot of people, I heard people complain about what we do with the military in this country, and they try to say that we’re spending more on military than both China and Russia put together. Yeah, that’s true, but there’s a reason for that, and the reason for that is that the most expensive thing in building a military is individuals, what we’re spending on individuals, on housing, on all of these things. Now when you’re dealing with — if you look at one of the communist countries, you look at Russia, you look at China, they don’t take care of their people. They don’t have that expense. That’s why we spend more than they do. You know, just in the last two years, what we’ve done to improve housing for our troops and their families, other people don’t do that, but we do it. So that’s why it’s so significant that we do this.

I have a concern that I’d like to share, and I hesitate to do this because it will take a little bit of time, but people out there don’t realize in a bill like this, what all goes into it, and I look at the people that are heading this thing up. Yesterday, Senator Reed talked about the Democrats and the Republicans, the staff people that have worked so hard and let me say this. We could not have this without the cooperation and the love that we have for each other with Senator Reed. He heads up the minority, I head up the majority, and together, we want to make sure that we have the best product in the world and can have the best of everything for our troops in the field. So I really want to single out Senator Reed for all the work he has done. He has been a great partner and friend throughout this process. We want to thank our colleagues in the House also — Congressman Smith and Congressman Thornberry, we all worked together.

You know these things, I’ve been involved in a lot of these things, and it always ends up in the Big Four, that’s where you have a leading Democrat and Republican in the House, Democrat and Republican in the Senate, so far as defense is concerned, and we iron these things out. In the meantime, this long bill is one that’s just taken a lot of work. I know that yesterday, Senator Reed got to mention the names of and show the appreciation of the Democrats who worked in the minority, and I want us to do the same for the Republicans in the majority. John Bonsell, I don’t think there is a person in Washington, DC,  who knows more about our military than John Bonsell does. He’s put together a group of people — these are all experts, and they all worked — people don’t understand this, but I’m talking about weekends, Sundays, times they have to work to get things done and to get the bill in a position because you’ve got to pass it through the Senate, and then you have to go to the Senate floor, and then you have to go to the House and the House committee and the House floor, and then you have to have a conference.

There are some things in this bill that I — that we avoiding having, and I’m thankful that we did, quite frankly, that the House wanted and the Senate didn’t want. We were able to iron out these differences and get them done. But to do that, we had to work long, hard hours. I can assure you that the staff worked a lot longer hours than I did. So I single these people out as really the experts, and I wanted to show the appreciation, and I’m going to read them off to you: John Bonsell, we know about John Bonsell, we know what he’s done. He’s been with me since he was years ago stationed at Fort Sill in my state of Oklahoma. He’s been with me and heading up this group and putting this group together. This group consists of John Wason, Tom Goffus, Stephanie Barna, Greg Lilly, Marta Hernandez, Rick Berger, Jennie Wright, Adam Barker, Adam Trull, Brad Patout, Jason Potter, Katie Sutton, Eric Trager, T.C. Williams, Otis Winkler, Gwyneth Woolwine, Katie Magnus, Leah Brewer, Debbie Chiarello, Gary Howard, Tyler Wilkinson, John Bryant, Griffin Cannon, Keri Lyn Michalke, Soleil Sykes, Brittany Amador, and Jillian Schofield.

They have performed long and hard hours. There’s been more staff work go into this bill than any other bill that’s before us any time, year-round. I appreciate so much the hard work that’s gone on there.

We will pass this bill. It’s one that if we don’t pass it, we’re not going to give the resources necessary for our kids in the field to have the safety that we can provide them, and to have the equipment. We want to get to the point where we have the very best of everything out there, and right now we don’t. We’re not — China and Russia are knocking at our door. We have to do a better job than we have in the past, and I’m going to be working with the Administration to do everything we can in the coming year.

But right now, we need to get caught up and go ahead and pass this bill. This bill is the road map for the next year, and that’s why this is important. So I encourage all of us to do what we have to do to get this bill done, hopefully today, but definitely by tomorrow. I believe that will happen because people do care about our troops. There’s no one more deserving in America than our troops that are out there in harm’s way, and we’re going to make sure we do the right thing for them. With that, I yield the floor.

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