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November 18, 2021

Inhofe Urges Senate to Support Annual Defense Authorization Bill to Support Troops, Protect America

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor to introduce the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2022 and urge his colleagues to support it. 

As Delivered: 

First of all, this is a big deal, what we’re embarking on now. It’s something that people understand, it’s the most important thing we do around here. And let me just say, my partner, Jack Reed — we’ve been doing this a long time. I have often said how fortunate I am — you know, all you hear out there in the real world is how everybody hates everybody in Washington, we don’t like them, we want to compete with each other. But you know, every year when we do the NDAA — that means the National Defense Authorization Act — it’s the biggest and the most important bill of the year, and even though people think it’s all happening inside this two- or three-day period, it’s not. It's something that goes on all year long.

We’ve gotten to know each other very well, and we know some areas where we have differences, but very rarely do we have differences that would impair our mission, and our mission is the most important mission that we have year-round. So I appreciate very much Chairman Reed and what he’s been doing along with me — together, what we’ve done together.

The NDAA has a long history of bipartisanship. Senator Reed and I worked together to get this bill through committee with an overwhelming bipartisan, 23-3 vote to bring it to the floor. That’s where we are today. That’s something you don’t hear about in Washington, that you can pass something out of committee by a vote of 23-3, but we did. And we did it because it’s a bill that gets done by the members.

The world is getting more dangerous by the day. We know that’s the case.

One notable example is what’s happening now on the Ukraine border. Just weeks after conducting its largest military exercise in 40 years, Russia came dancing in and amassed a huge military buildup on the border.

In fact, the defense minister from Ukraine was in my office this morning and was talking about all the things that are going on there. According to the image that we have by satellite, we’re seeing tanks, we’re seeing missiles, we’re seeing artillery, and — here is why I am really concerned — even military ambulances. Why would Putin be putting military ambulances if he were not expecting casualties? The answer is he wouldn’t. So we have an idea of what’s going to happen.

In addition to this equipment, experts are reporting more than 90,000 Russian combat troops are massed along Ukraine’s border.

These troops are in a more threatening posture than they have ever been before — they are in the south, and in the north, they’re knocking on the door of Kyiv, and all that’s going on right now 

It might sound crazy that Russia would want to deploy so many forces right now — in November — to a region where winters are brutally cold. But here’s something not many people really think about, and that is frozen ground is easier to move around heavy equipment like tanks and artillery.

I’m not the only one who’s sounding the alarm on this. Earlier this year, Senator Rounds and Congressman Trent Kelly and I visited Romania, which, like Ukraine, sits on the frontlines of Russian aggression.

At that time, Romanian military officials warned us that Russia was moving from a defensive to an offensive posture in the Black Sea. We are seeing it now — everything we’re predicting, it’s happening now.

Putin is capitalizing on what he perceives as U.S. weakness. He knows that our NATO allies are disturbed by the catastrophe in Afghanistan, and that many European nations fear the United States is no longer interested in transatlantic security.

This is something, you know — the president shouldn't have done what he did. And we all, I think most Americans know that. It was a disaster that way he put this thing together in Afghanistan, and now we know where we are.

It is tempting to say that “we’ve seen all this before,” but I don’t think we have just like this.

So this is about America, this about NATO — the credibility and capability. That’s why the NDAA is so important every year — but especially this year.

But first, let’s be frank. Russia is far from our only threat.

This is a document that a lot of people have looked at and thought, why didn't we do this before this? This was back in, I think it was…about five years ago it was put together. We consider it to be the top six Democrats and the top six Republicans on defense, and they put this book together. It's a very brief book. We've been following — this has been our Bible. We've been doing this now for a long time, and the things that we were predicting at that time are actually becoming a reality. That tells us for the first time — this is significant, people don't understand this — for the first time, we have two major adversaries at the same time. This hasn't happened before. And, you know we're talking about Russia, yeah, that's significant.

But you’ve heard me say before the Chinese Communist Party has been investing heavily in modernizing its military. Over the last two decades, their military spending has gone up a 450 percent, just in the last two decades. We’re not doing this over here. I have to say, and everyone realizes this, these communist countries have a great advantage. They can move and move quickly, and they don't seem to have any limitations.

Now we’re seeing the results of that investment. They’ve tested hypersonic missiles that we don’t even have anymore. I have to say that again. Hypersonic missiles is something they have, they're using, they've tested, we've seen it, and we don't even have it — and we don't have any counter to it. They’re leapfrogging us in other critical areas like artificial intelligence. And they are rapidly expanding their nuclear arsenal and infrastructure.

These investments in military capability are done with real purpose — they are threatening Taiwan and other allies in the Indo-Pacific. The ambassador Bi-Khim Hsiaso was in my office this morning, the ambassador from Taiwan, and we’re looking at things that are going on there just like we’re looking at from the Russian area.

But the threat China poses to our own interests can’t be overstated — or underestimated.

Meanwhile, North Korea — so it’s not just those two countries — North Korea is out there. Iran is out there. North Korea is conducting missile tests of its own, and Iran continues to back proxies striking at U.S. troops and our interests, most recently we’ve seen in Syria.

The terrorist threat in Afghanistan is also resurging, thanks to the disastrous drawdown that continues to undermine the U.S. credibility. We know that ISIS-K and al-Qaeda have the desire and intent to strike our homeland. This is something a lot of people don’t understand and don’t believe, the threat that’s out there.

Now we know when they’ll be able to strike us, and it’s closer than you think — as soon as six months from now, as the Senate Armed Services Committee was told just last month, this could happen.

I don’t say this to be dramatic. This is a reality — plain and simple. The world is more dangerous than it’s ever been in my lifetime — and by the way, people have reminded me over and over again yesterday, today, since it was my birthday, how long that lifetime has been. And we've seen a lot, but we haven't seen anything like this before.

National security needs to be a top priority. Without a strong military defending our way of life, nothing else matters. We can talk about other things. It doesn't really matter if we can't do that.

Since World War Two, we’ve ensured peace through the world by projecting strength. Our military should — and must — serve as a strong deterrent to our adversaries. They’ve got to know that they can’t beat us. You know, some people question that. But they've got to know that they can't beat us, and we got to show them that we can, and yet we are fully aware that they have things that we don't have, they have technology that we don't have, and this is something that we haven't been dealt with before.

But President Biden’s inadequate defense budget request, the irresponsible drawdown in Afghanistan — something he shouldn’t have done, the administration should not have done — the lack of commitment to shared nuclear security are calling that into question.

It’s evidence that we aren’t prioritizing national defense — and we already have seen what happens when we don’t prioritize national defense. We see upticks in destabilizing, threatening behavior, exactly what Putin is doing right now.

So just imagine what would happen if Putin or Xi thought they stood a chance to beat us if we didn’t turn things around, and that could happen.

So it’s simply a reality today that people don't understand and should understand. Americans take for granted the idea that our military is the best. You know, you when I go back to not just my state of Oklahoma but all around the country, people assume that. You know — I'm old enough to remember what was happening at the tail-end of World War Two. We learned a lesson — we learned to be prepared. And for a long period of time, we had the best of everything. We had the best, more modern equipment, all of this, and that isn't the case today. Americans take for granted that we have the best of everything, but we don’t. It’s just not true anymore.

And don't just take my word for it — don’t just take it from me. A couple of weeks ago, our nation's number-two military advisor, General Hyten — no one disagreed, and I don't know anyone who would actually argue with General Hyten — he was explaining how China is on pace to surpass us if we don't do something to change what's going on today. That’s General Hyten. I don't know of a more knowledgeable person anywhere in America or elsewhere.

We can meet these challenges. We can put our country back on the right track. That’s going to take real investment and real strategy.

Congress has a very important role to play here. We pass the National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations bill each year. Every year we give our military what it needs and to set this thing right.

I’m proud to say this year’s NDAA goes a long way to making our country more secure. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s very good and a necessary start. And that's what this is all about now. That’s what we're going to be passing — I'm talking about tomorrow and the next day and going into this long process that includes both the House and the Senate.

Let’s start with one of the biggest ways it strengthens our national defense: Authorizing an additional $25 billion in funding for the Department of Defense. This is just a floor for defense spending.

Now, it's important that we understand that this president has not been a good president in terms of building the national defense. He just isn't. You know his budget request shortchanged our national defense. In fact, if you put his budget in terms of defense and non-defense, the amount that goes to non-defense averages about 16 percent increase. The amount that goes to defense is 1.6 increase, 1.6 percent increase. Now that the President's budget. That’s not my budget or our budget, and it hasn't passed, but nonetheless, that gives you an idea of where we are right now. The emphasis is not on defense. It should be, and it's not. So President Biden’s budget request short-changed national defense. It didn’t even keep pace with out-of-control inflation, inflation right now, that figure is above 1.6 percent and that’s where we are today. It meant that it cut funding for our military, even as we face the growing threats that I mentioned. and we're talking about that compared to the inflation rate and what's happening right now.

So I’m glad the Armed Services Committee — almost unanimously — adopted my amendment to increase the Department of Defense’s budget topline. This is the bare minimum of what we need to meet the threats we face. This is what underscores everything we do.

The bill also makes sure this money is spent the right way. As we have for the last few years, we are using the 2018 National Defense Strategy — that’s this book I referenced just a minute ago —as kind of our roadmap, and we are using this for that.

The NDAA focused on the Indo-Pacific — which is our priority theater — by emphasizing investment in the region through the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the PDI, which we started in last year’s bill.

That’s the way this works is we are continuing as time goes by.  We have a bill, and the bill is activated usually in December, but then we're already into the next year. So while this seems, people say you're only talking about one bill a year, it doesn't really work out that way.

And it strengthens our supply chain so we are not reliant on China. We’re doing that right now. It addresses threats posed from information warfare, and deters the foreign malign influence.

It also stands strong against Russia. Perhaps most importantly, it provides critical lethal aid to Ukraine, and we know that these things are working.

While radios and cold weather gear are needed, they won’t deter Putin’s strategy and his ambitions. Weapons like Javelin anti-tank missiles, on the other hand, remind him that invading and annexing Kyiv will have real and concrete costs.

We know Russia and China are expanding their nuclear arsenals. Our nuclear stockpile serves as the cornerstone of our deterrent – so we must keep it safe, secure, and effective.

That’s why the NDAA supports the nuclear modernization our military commanders say is their top priority.

It provides support to our allies and partners around the world. Unfortunately, our allies and partners are questioning our commitment right now, after what happened in Afghanistan. They are feeling like they were being told and not consulted. They didn't even know that withdrawal that should not have taken place, that did take place in Afghanistan, is one that they were not even aware of.

It provides the reassurance of American credibility they desperately need to rebuild and cement those relationships. With strong allies and partners around the world, we will ensure the balance of power is in our favor, but we’re not there yet.

When it comes to hard power, this bill makes serious investments in equipment we need to fight and win wars now — growing our naval fleet, expanding next-generation fighter capability, and providing for the largest investment in military construction in a decade.

And it looks to the future too. We know that we need to accelerate innovation and develop the technology that’s going to help defeat whatever our enemies might throw our way.

Yet in many of these emerging technologies, we risk falling behind. In some cases, we already have fallen behind. It's kind of hard for us to accept that in America as we went through several decades, everything since the Second World War of not falling behind, but we have now.

So this year’s NDAA invests in defense technology that will put us back ahead of our competitors — that’s our goal — ?in things like microelectronics, artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, 5G. These are areas that we are working on to get back in the driver’s seat, where actually we have fallen behind. It’s hard to say that — America has fallen behind.

You know, General Hyten said recently something that I really think is important for everyone to hear.

He said, and this is in quotes now, we must “focus on speed and re-inserting speed back in the process of the Pentagon…and that means taking risk, and that means learning from failures, and that means failing fast and moving fast.” And I have to say that General Hyten is certainly one of the greatest warriors of our time, and we should be listening to him. We have serious problems.

We have to get the policies and authorities in place to let the Pentagon move quickly and, as General Hyten put it, “fail fast.” As he retires this week, I think it’s clear that he is a national hero and that he knows what’s going on.

Right now, too much is hampered by bureaucracy at the Pentagon. This NDAA encourages the Pentagon to move faster, to take risk, to jumpstart the innovation that we need to succeed.

But we have to realize that in fact, this is really the most important thing this bill does: we take care — people talk all the time about how much we spend on military. I hear a lot of people around don't think we need a strong military. A lot of them talk about, well, we spend more on our military than Russia and China put together. Yeah, that's true. But we have a cost that the others don't have. Communist countries don't have the costs of taking care of their people. In fact the most important thing that we do is take care of our troops. Even China and Russia are building up and modernizing their militaries, they don’t take care of their people. They don’t claim to take care of their people, and we do. The most expensive thing we do in our military is to take care of our military, take care of the schools, the people who are out there taking the risk.

This bill takes care of our troops in so many ways. It improves their health and their health care, provides education and child care for their children, and makes sure their spouses can have meaningful employment as they move from area to area. It’s a unique problem that our spouses do have as they move around the country. And so, again, we're competing with China and Russia and other countries. None of them have this problem, this greatest expense that we do.

Our service members represent the very best of our country. If they do have to go into harm’s way, it is our responsibility to ensure they are the best prepared, best equipped, and best led forces in the battlefield. This bill does that.

But we don’t want them to go to war. We want to prevent those wars from happening. 

As I said earlier, the best way we do that is by projecting strength – sending a message to our adversaries that there is no chance they can beat us. The NDAA is the major way that we send that message.

That’s why the NDAA has been enacted into law every year for the past 60 years. This will be the 61st year, so we’re going to get it passed, but it almost never comes up this late in the year. This is a disadvantage we’re working from, but it always gets done eventually. We still have a lot of work left to do after this, and not a lot of time to do it. You know, we got a late start. We can’t afford late starts. If you do late starts, sometimes it ends up being just down to four people. Both my partner and I have been in a situation where we have been down to what they call the Big Four making all these decisions ourselves. That's not what we're supposed to be doing. That's not what we want to do. But that's why the NDAA has been enacted into law every year for 60 years.

We built this bill around member requests — now this is unique. This is something people need to understand. We're getting our requests from the members that are serving here in this, with us here in the Senate and the open amendment process — we're going to have an open amendment process, and this is what we have committed ourselves to make sure that we're doing that and you get another chance to mark on this bill. So what we're doing right now is very important.

You got to keep in mind — this is going to be done by the House. It's going to be done by the Senate. It's going to be something that will go down is the most significant thing that's happening this year. But we can never work too hard or too long for our troops and our national defense.

I know some of my colleagues are concerned about one provision that we have in this bill at this time, which was added in markup and included in the House bill too.

Now, I opposed the addition of this provision, which changes what the military draft does. If enacted, it would expand the draft so it’s not just about finding combat replacements to serve on frontlines. It also requires women to register for the Selective Service, not just men.

I’ve always said, as a product of the draft myself, I know what the draft is, I was there and I served. I always said that I understand that and I think the draft is essential. It changed my life certainly, but I am strongly opposed to drafting our daughters and our granddaughters. So this is going to be coming up. We're going to be talking about this. Everything's going to be out in the open, so get ready for that fight because that fight’s coming.

That’s why I submitted an amendment to strike this provision from the underlying bill, and I will work to get it out of any conference report as well, OK?

Last week, we marked Veterans Day, and that should be a reminder to all of us why we do this.

In fact, we’ve got 2.2 million reasons to do this — 2.2 million future veterans, our volunteer force, who put their lives in harm’s way and who rely on this bill getting done. And that doesn’t even include their families, who are sacrificing so much.

So that’s out there, we know, and that’s going to happen. I know my colleagues understand this. I know they understand our responsibility to our troops and to the American people.

And so I look forward to our debate on this bill, and then to passing it in the traditional bipartisan way like we always do. Together, we will fulfill our constitutional duty and meet these challenges that we face. We have no time to waste in doing this. So this is the most significant bill of the year, that's what we're going to do. We're going get it done, and so let’s go do it right. OK?  

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