Weekly Columns

We’ve just celebrated America’s 243rd birthday, so it’s fitting that the Senate recently passed the annual authorization bill that helps ensure our nation’s military is able to perform a fundamental role prescribed by the Constitution – providing for the common defense.

For the last 58 years consecutively, Congress has approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes funding and provides authorities for our military to help strengthen our national security and make sure our service members have the tools and resources they need to defend the United States. That this annual bill has received such tremendous support for so many decades demonstrates just how vital it is acknowledged to be.

The Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA passed the Senate by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 86-8. It authorizes $750 billion in critical funding to our Armed Forces and makes significant investments in research and development for key defense technologies that will help the U.S. maintain our competitive advantage. Importantly, it includes a 3.1 percent pay increase for our men and women in uniform – which would deliver to them their largest raise in a decade – as well as needed reforms to private military housing.

The Senate-passed NDAA has provisions I offered that benefit Arkansas, our national security and our veterans. One significant aspect that will directly help our state deals with the expansion of the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery. I led an effort supported by our entire congressional delegation to allow the transfer of nearly 141 acres of land at Camp Robinson to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs in order to secure more burial space for Natural State veterans.

Other language that I successfully advocated to be included ranges from broadening wounded warrior adaptive sports programs to allow veterans who were enrolled in their respective service’s Wounded Warrior Program prior to their date of separation to continue rehabilitative services for one year, to providing an authorization for additional full-time Air Force Reservists – one of the top priorities for the Air Force Reserve.

I have also worked with the Departments of the Army and the Interior on growing Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s most sacred shrine, because it is close to capacity. The FY20 NDAA includes my provision authorizing a land exchange to allow more burial space for veterans at Arlington so that our fallen men and women who are eligible will have the opportunity to be laid to rest amongst the many heroes who preceded them.

Supporting and strengthening our military forces during a time when we face evolving threats helps deter our adversaries from seeking out conflict with the United States and our allies. Protecting America and its citizens requires our combat force to be lethal and well-equipped. The NDAA makes the appropriate investments in order to maintain our superiority and curtail threats that our global competitors might otherwise be emboldened to mount. 

Senate passage of the NDAA is an important first step in the efforts to bolster our national defense. We must continue that momentum by passing a good bill through both chambers and sending the legislation to the president’s desk to become law.