America now has a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for this fiscal year. After long congressional debates over this important bill, the overwhelming votes in the House and Senate gave a major win for all our citizens. It shows that supporting our military remains a bipartisan priority. With President Donald Trump’s signature making this legislation the law of the land, America’s armed forces will have what they need in 2020.

The NDAA fulfills Congress’s most basic responsibility to provide for the common defense by setting funding levels and priorities for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army. This year’s defense authorization builds on the progress of the last three years and is a strong step forward as our military comes back from the damaging Obama-era cuts and takes care of troops and their families.

Wins in this NDAA

 

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2020 authorizes $738 billion in defense funding, consistent with recent years and below Cold War spending when measured as a percentage of the total U.S. economy. This money supports the Department of Defense’s normal operations while giving a much-needed pay raise to service members. It will also help the Pentagon adapt to changing threats.

Some of the most important provisions will give our Navy professionals the ships they need. These measures will authorize full funding for the LPD-31 and LHA-9, amphibious ships to be built by the experts in Mississippi, as well as three new destroyers. I have long supported these programs, especially through the SHIPS Act, which I authored and which will increase the size of America’s fleet to 355 vessels, the number required to keep our country safe.

Satellites and cyber weapons will also present significant challenges going forward. In 2016, then-candidate Trump promised to address these issues by creating an American Space Force. This NDAA keeps the president’s promise by establishing that new service branch within the Air Force, getting America ready for launch. 

I am glad a provision I led to expand JROTC and National Defense Cadet Corps to 3,700 units nationwide was included as well. These programs benefit schools, families, and communities by teaching lifelong lessons about character and citizenship to the next generation of leaders, some of whom will go on to serve in uniform. 

There are many other great ideas that will become realities because of this legislation. There are also many unwise proposals that I worked to exclude from the end product, such as measures that would have unnecessarily limited the president’s ability to counter Iranian aggression. Efforts to move terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the United States and cut off support for our allies were also stopped in their tracks.

A Bipartisan Tradition

 

Congress has passed a defense authorization every year for the last 58 years, usually with supermajorities of Republicans and Democrats. Both in times of bipartisan unity and during hard fights like today, this process stands out as the legislative branch at its best. 

The fact that we were able to approve the NDAA for the 59th year in a row with such broad support shows how necessary this bill is. The vote also demonstrates the level of trust our country has in our defense professionals.

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