Given Our Current Global Commitments and Tremendous Challenges Facing the New Administration, It Is Imperative to Equip Our Commanders for the Tough Task Ahead
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act is a major step toward improving readiness and enhancing the ability of our servicemen and women to defend our nation. The NDAA is not a perfect piece of legislation; inevitably bills of its size and scope fail to address every concern and often interfere in issues unrelated to a bill’s core mission. However, the damage done to our military by its own civilian leadership over the past eight years has placed our service members in a precarious position. The world is more dangerous now than at any point in my lifetime. Every single military leader that came to the Hill this year told us he or she was in dire need of assistance; that readiness is suffering, equipment is on the verge of obsolescence and that our adversaries have rapidly closed a once daunting technological gap. Given our current global commitments and the tremendous challenges facing the new administration, I believe it is imperative to equip our military commanders with the necessary authorities to begin the tough task ahead.
I am proud to have my earned colleagues’ support for many key provisions I fought to include in the NDAA to address these challenges and strengthen our national security. Equally as important, this final legislation dropped the misguided effort to mandate that young women enroll in the Selective Service and make themselves eligible for conscripted combat service.
However, I remain deeply concerned that, once again, Congress failed to use this opportunity to revoke a previous NDAA statue that potentially allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process. The 2017 NDAA is silent on that issue, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee while also urging consideration of this issue before the Judiciary Committee and the incoming administration to ensure the steadfast protection of all citizens’ constitutional rights.
Following are highlights of my provisions in this year’s NDAA:
- Expands and improves U.S. missile defense by rewriting U.S. national missile defense policy to enable the Department of Defense to defend against the full spectrum of ballistic missile threats.
- Includes a provision that blocks funding for and participation in joint exercises or security-related conferences with Cuba until and unless the Secretaries of State and Defense provide assurances that the government of Cuba has rescinded demands for the return of Guantanamo Bay and the Cuban military has ceased committing human rights abuses, persecuting political dissidents and religious organizations, and providing military intelligence and weapons training to Venezuelan forces.
- Fully funds Israel cooperative missile defense programs that are vital to defending our close ally against growing threats and serve as an investment in our own security as well.
- Calls for regular transfers of defense articles – specifically undersea capabilities – to Taiwan, assisting Taiwan in strengthening air defenses, and training bilaterally with Taiwan’s military to enhance their deterrent capabilities.
- Strengthens reporting requirements on Russia’s full-spectrum operations in Ukraine and nuclear modernization, and requires DOD to publish the report online, a step that will strengthen Congress’ efforts to work with the Executive Branch to assess Russian compliance with arms treaties.
- Expands the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on the Military Power of Iran to include assessments of 1) Iran’s cyber capabilities, including Iran’s ability to use its proxies to mask cyber operations, and 2) Iran’s ability to target U.S. governmental and nongovernmental entities and activities, and 3) any cooperation or assistance from state and non-state actors in support of Iran’s cyber capabilities.
- Enhances the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to include the provision of equipment and technical assistance to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, as well as training for Ukrainian military leadership.
- Includes efforts that are vital to the continued success of the military across the state of Texas, including a provision that makes it harder to build windfarms that could negatively impact the military value of nearby military facilities
- Provides more than $224 million in military construction funds to rebuild Texas’ military infrastructure.