WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today voiced supported for the conferenced National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2016, of which he was a conferee member. The legislation was filed last night in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I applaud Chairmen McCain and Thornberry and Ranking Members Reed and Smith for working together to put forward a final National Defense Authorization Act,” said Inhofe. “This legislation is critical to maintain our national security and to support our men and women in uniform and their families. While this bill does not contain every provision I would have liked, the final language is overall good policy for our national defense and provides authorizations in a timely manner. The conference report keeps provisions in place that I fought for during committee mark-up of the legislation that will support Oklahoma’s military installations and surrounding communities. Committee leadership also navigated difficult decisions on how to address military benefits, and I applaud their decision to prevent commissaries from being privatized without proper research into how it would impact military families. When it comes to Guantanamo Bay, leadership made the right decision to tighten provisions and prevent the transfer of detainees onto U.S. soil for at least another year.
“Our nation is in the midst of war and is being confronted with global instability that demands U.S. leadership. Our nation is directly engaged in Asia, Africa, eastern Europe, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the demands on our military continue to increase with no end in sight. I urge a swift and timely passage of this legislation by both Congress and the president, the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. A veto of this bill will have a devastating impact on our ability to defend this nation and its citizens. The authorizations and spending priorities contained in this bill are critical to our national security and support the resource requirements of the Department of Defense.”
The following are provisions that were addressed in conference that have a direct nexus to Sen. Jim Inhofe:
Commissaries: The conference report did not include language from the Senate’s NDAA that would have begun the privatization of commissaries, thereby preserving Inhofe’s amendment that was adopted on the Senate floor. The conference report instead requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to submit a plan for commissary and exchange systems to become budget neutral by 2018. Congress must do its due diligence to understand and assess how changes to our commissaries will impact our servicemembers and the promise our country made to take care of them and their families.
Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: The conference report prohibits transferring Gitmo detainees to the United States through Dec. 31, 2016, and tightens restrictions on transferring Gitmo detainees to certain foreign countries, language Inhofe strongly supported. It also includes language that prevents the closure of Gitmo through Dec. 31, 2016, rejecting Senate language that would have allowed the facility to be closed following Congressional approval of a plan. When the NDAA was on the Senate floor in June, Inhofe filed two amendments that would have prevented individuals being detained at Gitmo from being transferred to the United States. Neither were brought up for a vote, but Inhofe fought to remove the Senate language during conference.
Tulsa VA Clinic: Many Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) medical facilities around the country are old and in need of desperate repair or replacement in order to provide our veterans the care and services they deserve. Tulsa’s VA clinic is one of the worst in the country. Last year, Congress passed a comprehensive VA reform bill that included funding to lease a new clinic in Tulsa. In the FY’16 NDAA, Inhofe successfully included language that amended onerous restrictions placed on procuring a new lease for the clinic. This language was maintained in the conference report, and will ensure Oklahoma veterans get a new, more-capable clinic in Tulsa and before 2020, when the current clinic would be forced to close because it does not meet current building requirements.
Purple Heart Recipients: The conference report does not include the House provision authored by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) to posthumously present the Purple Heart to military members killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
“Congressman Steve Russell’s genuine desire to represent his district was on display when he put forward language in the NDAA to posthumously present the Purple Heart to military members killed in the Oklahoma City bombing,” Inhofe said. “While it faced opposition from the DoD and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, it helped to launch a much-needed review within the department of what should qualify a military member to be a recipient of the award. Since the Purple Heart was first established in 1917, war and the type of attacks threatening our servicemembers have changed. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am committed to being a part of the ongoing discussions and the process for appropriately updating the criteria of the Purple Heart.”
Endangered Species Act: The House-version of the NDAA included language to effectively remove the Lesser Prairie Chicken from being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for a period of five years and delist the American Burying Beetle. It also included language to give states final say on conservation efforts for the Greater Sage Grouse on federal lands within the prospective states’ borders. As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Inhofe provides oversight of the ESA law. He and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter on Sept. 22 to the Armed Services Committee leadership urging the Big Four to adopt the House-passed language on the listing of these species under ESA.
“I am extremely disappointed the conference report does not include the important Endangered Species Act provisions that were included in the House passed bill, which would have protected the military’s ability to train without fear of overbearing environmental restrictions being imposed on its bases,” Inhofe said.
Increasing troop safety on DOD installations: On July 22, Inhofe sent a letter to SASC leadership requesting a hearing on what DOD is doing to review and/or take action regarding force protection of its service members and their families on DOD installations. On Aug. 5, Inhofe introduced the Enhancing Security for Military Personnel Act (S.1988) to instruct the DOD to submit to Congress a plan to enhance security of military personnel at DOD installations and implement the plan within 90 days after the bill’s enactment. The NDAA conference report includes language that would overturn the Pentagon’s ban on service members carrying firearms on base and directs the Pentagon to put in place guidelines for commanders to authorize troops to carry firearms on DOD installations, if deemed necessary for personal or force-protection measure.
MILCON: The conference report authorizes $56 million to Fort Sill for phase two of the reception barrack’s complex and an additional $13.4 million for a training support facility. Altus Air Force Base will receive $18 million for a 120-room dormitory and $10.4 million for a KC-46A fuel cell maintenance hangar. Tinker Air Force Base will receive $37 million for a KC-46 Depot Maintenance Dock and another $12.9 million for a new air traffic control tower. Will Rogers World Airport will receive $7.6 million as we continue the MC-12 bed-down with the National Guard.
Retaining the AWACS, JSTARS and EC-130H Compass Call: The conference report prohibits the Air Force for two years from retiring or preparing to retire any AWACS, JSTARS or EC-130H Compass Call aircraft until their specific follow-on replacement aircraft program enters low-rate initial production.
Paladin Integrated Management (PIM): The Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) is necessary to the modernization of the Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer and the U.S. artillery force. Inhofe successfully included language in the conference report authorizing full funding of $273.9 million to acquire 30 new PIMs.
KC-46A Procurement: The KC-46A will replace our aging KC-135 tanker aircraft. Inhofe support language in the conference report that fully funds the KC-46 program for $2.7 billion. Altus is scheduled to receive four aircraft in 2016 (one in August, one in October and two in November). It will receive four more aircraft in 2017 for an initial planned total of eight aircraft for training operations at Altus.