Dr. Boozman's Check-up

The Senate started this week off by passing The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This vital national security bill authorizes $716 billion for our nation’s defense to ensure our military is prepared to address the wide-range of threats the U.S. and our allies face in the world today.

Along with providing our troops with the resources, equipment and training they need, the NDAA authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops—the largest pay raise for our service members in almost a decade. This extra money in their paychecks will improve the quality of life for the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms.

The Senate and House of Representatives will have to address the differences in our two versions of NDAA and send a final version approved by both chambers to the president. There is one very important provision in Senate version that should remain intact—my amendment to require the Pentagon to conduct an assessment of the need for combat enablers while it determines whether we should permanently station a U.S. Army brigade combat team in Poland.

When I visited with our military leadership in Poland, they stressed it was critical that the U.S. maintain forces in Europe to serve as a deterrence to Russian aggression. The underlying text of the Senate-passed NDAA included language that would require the Secretary of Defense to conduct an assessment of the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing a brigade combat team in Poland. Military leadership on the ground there emphasized the importance of having combat enablers—such as engineers, electronic warfare and intelligence experts—to support the brigade combat team’s efforts to deter aggression by Russia and execute contingency plans.

Combat enablers are the essential non-combat force that help to maintain our defense posture around the globe. They can help us prepare for the serious threats Russia poses to our allies and interests in Eastern Europe. If we are going to maintain forces in Poland, we should set them up to succeed by stationing combat enablers with them.

I’m hopeful that my amendment will be included in the conference report that comes before the House and Senate, and eventually makes it to the president’s desk to become law. The feedback I’ve received from our military leaders tells me that we have to be strategic and clear-eyed about the situation developing in Eastern Europe and my amendment is just one piece within a larger blueprint to help the Pentagon toward this end.