Weekly Columns

The Senate recently advanced critical legislation to support our nation’s defense and ensure U.S. servicemembers have the tools to combat evolving threats from our adversaries. Whether bravely serving in America’s uniform, contributing to the domestic defense industry, or sending care packages to our troops, Arkansas has a long and proud history of supporting our military. I’m working to strengthen defense investments in our state.

The Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language I backed authorizing projects for Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith to successfully host the future F-35 pilot training mission, making it a premier training location. 

In March, the U.S. Air Force selected Fort Smith as the new home of its program training military personnel from allied nations on the fifth-generation jet as well as housing the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore F-16 Fighting Falcon training unit. This mission is crucial to strengthening our partnerships and enhancing deterrence methods to better achieve our national interests while meeting obligations to our allies.  

Leaders at all levels of government worked to secure this mission that further boosts Arkansas’s role in national defense and enhances economic opportunity in the region.  

In Washington, the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee recently approved $83 million to fund work necessary to make Ebbing a top pilot training center – an effort I was proud to champion.

The NDAA also reinforces the domestic small arms industrial base, including several major companies with production operations in southern Arkansas. Additionally, the Senate bill supports multi-year procurements for critical munitions that would provide predictability and support increased workforce levels among defense manufacturers based in Camden that produce cutting-edge missile systems. 

Staff members from each Arkansas congressional office recently visited Natural State sites supporting our national security to gain even more insight about these vital entities. In Camden, my staffers learned about the newly increased demands on production and how the defense industry is working to meet them.

Not only do they help arm the U.S. military and allies, but they also invest in the local community, supporting economic growth and creating additional well-paying jobs to attract a skilled workforce into the region. Supporting their success is a win-win. 

We are also proud of Little Rock Air Force Base’s recognition as the C-130 Center of Excellence. The recent completion of a new runway will improve the training experience for C-130 pilots from the Air Force and Arkansas Air National Guard as well as help protect its special status for years to come. 

In early August, base leaders celebrated takeoff of the first aircraft to use the new airstrip. The updated infrastructure extends the operational life of the airfield, which is why we pushed for replacement of the aging runway to improve safety and increase capacity to practice tactical landings, ensuring combat airlift forces are supported well into the future. 

These are just a few examples of the ongoing effort to secure and grow our state’s role in protecting the entire country. 

We rely on the federal government to provide for our national defense. Senate passage of the NDAA represents important progress toward supporting the military’s priorities for the future so we can defend our national interests while demonstrating our appreciation for the men and women called to carry out the missions. As we experience new threats from around the globe, we must provide the resources to meet this need. Authorizing these programs through the NDAA and funding them through FY24 appropriations legislation is putting us on solid footing to meet challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.