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Wicker Applauds Passage of Defense Bill

Bipartisan Legislation Supports America’s Troops and National Security Priorities

Monday, December 10, 2012

Every year for the past five decades, the Senate has passed an outline of defense spending for the coming year.  Known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislation is instrumental in making sure our troops have the resources they need to fulfill their missions around the world.  I am honored to have an active role in producing the defense bill as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Foremost among my responsibilities is supporting America’s defense priorities and the well-being of our brave men and women in uniform.

The unanimous approval of NDAA in the Senate on December 4 represents an encouraging moment of bipartisan cooperation.  The legislation authorizes $631.4 billion for national defense programs, including $88.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations.

In an era of budget constraints, we must look for savings everywhere, including defense.  NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to implement a plan reducing the size of the civilian bureaucracy within Department of Defense (DOD).  These reductions should parallel the legislation’s five percent reduction in active-duty military service members.  

A similar bipartisanship is necessary to ensure that national security and American jobs are protected.  Across-the-board defense cuts, known as sequestration, are set to go into effect at the beginning of the year unless existing law is changed.  More than 11,000 jobs in Mississippi are at risk.

Recognizing Mississippi’s Military Tradition

Mississippians have always responded to the call to serve, and our state plays an important role in equipping America’s defense.  NDAA recognizes and advances this long-standing commitment.

Several parts of NDAA that I supported will help reinforce Mississippi’s leadership.  One provision will keep the Air Force’s C-130 aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base for another year.  It also postpones the proposed reduction of C-27J aircraft at Key Field in Meridian.  Our state’s strong shipbuilding capabilities are reflected in the legislation’s multi-year procurement of DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, which are built in Pascagoula at Huntington Ingalls.

Promoting Better Green Building Standards

An amendment I authored for NDAA calls for the DOD to adopt better green building standards in an effort to avoid unnecessary costs.  The standards currently in place are not science-based and discriminate against products and materials that are proven to achieve energy savings.  The use of imported bamboo, for example, is favored over cost-effective American timber.

With more than 500,000 DOD facilities, the implementation of a single green building certification system could have a significant impact on the use of American-made products in military construction projects.  As my amendment articulates, a fair and transparent process must be put in place to prioritize both energy savings and cost efficiency.

Standing With Israel

The recent rocket attacks on Israel by the Islamist militant group Hamas remind us of the continued threats on our friends and allies in the world.  I was successful in adding language to NDAA that recognizes the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield system in protecting innocent lives during these attacks.  

The valued partnership between America and Israel is built on the common goal of stability and peace in a volatile region.  I am encouraged by the bipartisan support that my amendment achieved in reaffirming the Senate’s commitment to Israel.

As we approach the year-end deadline for a budget deal, NDAA underscores the urgency of preventing sequestration’s harmful impact.  In outlining our military priorities, we are better equipped to work toward ways to replace drastic defense cuts.

December 2012 Weekly Columns