Thornberry, Turner, Cole laud final House passage of National Defense Authorization Act

U.S. Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Mike Turner (R-OH), and Tom Cole (R-OK) commended final U.S. House approval of the conference report resolving differences with the U.S. Senate on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 national defense funding package.

The House on July 26 passed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019, H.R. 5515, by a vote of 359 to 54. The measure now heads back to the Senate, which must approve it by Sept. 30.

This year’s reauthorization “takes a big step toward rebuilding and repairing our military,” said Rep. Thornberry, who introduced the bipartisan H.R. 5515 on April 13 with U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. H.R. 5515 marks the fourth national defense reauthorization under Rep. Thornberry’s committee chairmanship.

“We are putting the men and women who put their lives on the line first and making sure they have what they need to get the job done,” Rep. Thornberry said. “Our service members sacrifice so much for our freedom; it is only right that they have the best equipment, best training and the best support our country can provide.”

H.R. 5515 would authorize $717 billion in spending for national defense and would fully fund a 2.6 percent pay raise for U.S. troops, the largest increase in nine years, according to Rep. Thornberry’s office. H.R. 5515 also would extend special pay and bonuses for military members employed in high-demand fields to stem the rising numbers of job turnovers.

“This bill continues to reform the Pentagon to help speed up decision-making and get equipment to our warfighters faster,” added the congressman, pointing to the bill’s proposed authorization of $17.7 billion to replace dilapidated U.S. Army equipment, including $21.8 billion for equipment maintenance and $3.7 billion for spare parts.

A statement from Rep. Thornberry’s office also noted that nearly $2.3 billion is authorized for Bell Boeing’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of seven new Ospreys and 25 new H-1 helicopters. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo located in Thornberry’s home district.

Generally, the bill would emphasize policy and programs that strengthen U.S. security against emerging threats, such as artificial intelligence, cyber, space and counter-space capabilities, influence operations, and hypersonics, among others.

“From strategic readiness, to increases in end strength, this year’s NDAA will support the largest restoration of the U.S. military in 15 years,” said Rep. Cole. “This bill supports the war-fighter and their families. It ensures our military will be equipped and trained to counter threats around the world.”

“Additionally,” Rep. Cole said, “it authorizes new research and development initiatives to counter threats from our adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.”

The House-approved conference report for H.R. 5515 includes several provisions authored by Rep. Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

For instance, one provision offered by Rep. Turner would hasten hiring of civilians to fill positions in acquisition, science, technology, and engineering, according to a July 26 statement from his office, which would allow commands, such as those at his home state’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to quickly hire high-tech personnel.

“Throughout the entire process of crafting the final defense bill, I fought for key provisions to bolster our community, ensure the safety of our men and women in uniform, and keep our country secure,” Rep. Turner said.

Most importantly, according to the congressman, he helped secure $182 million to expand intelligence operations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “This is a huge win for the Dayton community and underscores Wright-Patt’s importance to our overall national security,” he said.

Another provision from Rep. Turner included in H.R. 5515 was an amendment to boost use of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory, all located at Wright-Patterson.

Additionally, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Turner, who also co-chairs the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, and caucus co-chair U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) made it into H.R. 5515 to maintain how the U.S. military addresses sexual assault.

The Purposefully Expanding and Reinforcing the Statutes we Insist Support our Troops Against Military Sexual Trauma (PERSIST Against MST) Act, H.R. 5622, which the lawmakers introduced on April 25, would require the U.S. Secretary of Defense to designate a single official or entity within that office to oversee the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) registered sex offender management program and to provide a briefing and update to Congress on its efforts by June 1, 2019, according to a summary from Rep. Turner’s office.

Among other provisions in the bill, it also would ensure that military sexual assault victims could choose to request a speedy transfer and relocation, even if their case is handled by the Family Advocacy Program.

Finally, H.R. 5515 also includes Rep. Turner’s the Sharing Health Information to Ensure Lifesaving Drug Safety (SHIELDS) Act, H.R. 5591, introduced on April 24 with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).

The bipartisan bill would require the DOD to report controlled substance prescription information to state prescription drug monitoring programs “to help safeguard our service members, their families and our veterans from opioid abuse,” according to the statement from Rep. Turner’s office.

Rep. Cole pointed out that the national defense funding bill also “is consistent with President Trump’s commitment to rebuild our military and improve readiness.”

For example, H.R. 5515 aims to reduce the backlog in military aircraft maintenance and improve sustainment and logistics, which is a key mission at Tinker Air Force Base in his home state. In addition, “this bill provides for Long-Range Precision Fires and short-range air defense programs which are top priorities and key to the mission at Fort Sill” in Oklahoma, his office said.

“I applaud Chairman Thornberry, House leadership and the conference committee for their diligent work to present and pass another successful NDAA bill of which we are fundamentally committed to,” said Rep. Cole. “The next priority now is to pass the Defense Appropriations bill on time before the September 30 deadline.”