OPINION

Senatorial Update with Deb Fischer

Nebraska City News-Press

Taking Care of Our Military 

At the end of July, the Senate Armed Services Committee put party affiliations aside for the 61st year in a row to craft its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill that sets the policies and priorities for America’s military. The single most fundamental duty of Congress is to provide for the common defense, and the NDAA is one of the main ways we do that.

Unfortunately, the threats we face are growing. Following the passage of the bill in committee, Chairman Jack Reed and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe clearly stated what we are up against: countries like China and Russia that “do not accept U.S. global leadership” and are only growing bolder in their challenges to global peace.

The Senate NDAA supports the greatest weapon we have: America’s all-volunteer force of dedicated service members. Among other things, this bill would authorize a 2.7 percent pay raise and reauthorize special pay and bonuses for our military men and women. 

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee since my first day in the Senate, I have been proud to help draft this bill each year. And as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces for much of that time, I have been able to ensure that the NDAA supports our nuclear deterrent.

This year’s Senate NDAA is no exception. It would keep the modernization of our nuclear forces on schedule and substantially increase funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages our nuclear weapons.

Our nuclear deterrent forms the bedrock of our national security, and while it is effective today, it is aging. Most of the key components of our nuclear forces are still in service despite being decades beyond their designed lifetimes. Over a decade ago, the nation began a long-term effort to modernize our deterrent, and it is vital that we remain on track to ensure that new systems are fielded before the ones we rely on today are no longer effective. Russia and China’s continued expansion of their nuclear arsenals makes this work even more important.

Crucially, this year’s NDAA increased overall defense spending by $25 billion over President Biden’s initial request. The Biden administration originally proposed a defense topline increase of only 1.6 percent, which would not have kept pace with inflation in a normal year and would have amounted to a significant cut in this year of rising prices. The additional funds the committee authorized will help military commanders address their unfunded requirements, and also spur research into artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Beyond these important developments for our country, the Senate NDAA contains major wins for Nebraska. It supports a National Disaster Medical System pilot program that will improve medical surge capacity and strengthen civilian and military medical partnerships, an important element of the Nebraska NExT vision. It shows continued support for rebuilding Offutt Air Force Base after 2019’s severe flooding. And it also authorizes an additional $11 million to build a new barracks at the Nebraska National Guard’s Mead Training Site, one of the Army’s unfunded priorities.

The bill also recognizes how important the 55th Wing of the Air Force is to our military’s success, and it expresses the Senate’s support for the continued effort to rebuild Offutt after the 2019 flooding. Both STRATCOM and the 55th Wing call Offutt home, and this year’s NDAA shows that the U.S. military is committed to Nebraska for the long haul.

Our men and women in uniform make up the best fighting force in the world. Congress’ job is to support them, and this year’s NDAA does that well. I was honored to be a part of drafting it for the ninth year in a row.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Deb Fischer