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Ernst: “I served 23 years in military uniform… And it’s because of that experience that I understand that the work we do here – on this bipartisan defense bill – matters immensely to our troops.”

The Iowa senator highlighted the importance of the bipartisan annual defense bill to ensure our servicemembers have the resources necessary to protect our homeland.

WASHINGTON—As the Senate debates the annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, highlighted the importance of this bipartisan bill to ensure our servicemembers have the resources necessary to protect our homeland. Ernst spoke on her provisions in the bill to protect troops, preserve tax dollars, promote technology, and benefit Iowa.

Click here or on the image above to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.

Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:

“Madam President, this week we debate – as the Senate should – the annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.

“I served 23 years in military uniform – as both a company commander in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a logistics battalion commander with the Iowa National Guard.

“And it’s because of that experience that I understand that the work we do here – on this bipartisan defense bill – matters immensely to our troops. 

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, 50,000 National Guard and active duty troops answered the call without hesitation and are out there today running test sites, delivering medical supplies by ground and by air, and even running food banks to ensure no one goes without during this trying time.

“During a recent confirmation hearing for Lieutenant General Hokanson to be the head of the National Guard Bureau, I asked what the governors would do without the National Guard.

“He said he shuddered to think what they would do because they are America’s first response in communities across the nation.

“Just a few weeks ago, on June 7, we had over 120,000 National Guard deployed and that includes not only those within the United States but those that are deployed overseas.

“As a former National Guardsmen, I can tell you, these are some of our best and brightest.

“They are ready to go at a moment’s notice to respond to anything whether it is civil unrest, pandemics, or natural disasters.

“And that’s why I’m extremely pleased that this defense bill includes my provision to provide hazardous duty pay for our National Guard and other troops who are deployed to fight COVID-19.

“Now, being a woman in the military has many challenges – and some of these obstacles are preventable and we here in the Senate can take action on.

“For example, ensuring our female servicemembers are properly equipped for the battlefield.

“Through my efforts, and that of my fellow Army veteran Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, this defense bill ensures female troops will have body armor that fits them properly and DOD will be forced to report to us on their progress in finally getting this done.

“But it’s not just the body armor. We’re protecting troops in other areas as well. 

“One issue I’ve worked on for quite some time is on treating and preventing Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.

“This year’s NDAA funds effective treatments for TBI such as noninvasive neurostimulation therapy that has been proven to work in clinical trials.

“Through my provisions in the bill we’re also improving safety for military vehicles and ensuring our troops have the best weapons and ammunition.

“Our soldiers have been carrying the same weapons and ammo for decades and they are about to jump to the next generation of weapons with a new and better ammunition package.

“By bolstering funding for our Army’s small arms rifles and automatic weapons, our infantry will finally be carrying the most effective assault weapons on the planet in a few short months.

“Now, when we look at waste in our federal government, folks know that I call it like I see it.

“And as a former member of our military, I’m not proud to say it, but the Department of Defense oftentimes is responsible for some of our most egregious spending.

“So, to protect Iowa’s taxpayers, I made sure in this NDAA that we require all DOD grant recipients who get federal dollars to include a price tag disclosing the cost to taxpayers for their projects if they put out a press release for their work.

“The Comptroller General will also investigate the most expensive cost overruns in weapon systems and the Pentagon will tell Congress their top ten most expensive weapons to fix and maintain.

“On duplication and waste, I was proud that my subcommittee, the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, cut $300 million in research and development programs that were wasteful, duplicative, or not a priority.

“And we redirected this funding towards urgent research needs, such as getting a deployable coronavirus vaccine for our troops and for funding TBI programs.

“The NDAA also requires the most senior science and technology leaders to meet to discuss their research to ensure that it is coordinated and the Pentagon doesn’t continue to pay for the same research twice.

“Finally, and very importantly, this defense bill starts the long and hard work to fix our over-dependence on China – a near-peer adversary that we should always keep our guard up against.

“In the defense realm, the US has grown too reliant on the Chinese Community Party for components and materials for our most advanced weapon systems.

“Through my efforts in the bill, we are helping secure the U.S. supply chain for rare earth metals and battery components so we don’t rely on China for our weapons.

“We’re also working to deploy counter-drone weapons to stop unmanned aerial attacks on troops and invests invest in the latest technology for heads-up displays and wearable tech for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

“Madam President, before I close, I want to remind everyone of something…the National Defense Authorization Act is largely bipartisan.

“And it’s through the work we did in our Armed Services Committee, led by Senator Jim Inhofe and Ranking Member Jack Reed, that we were able to move quickly and debate it here on the floor this week.

“In what seems like a never-ending polarization of politics, important work like the NDAA often goes unnoticed, or is only highlighted because of the news-worthy provisions in the bill.

“I wish that were not the case.

“As I’ve said many times over, America does not have a perfect history and many of our heroes were flawed.

“But folks, we still live in the greatest country on the face of this earth. 

“And that’s because of men and women who have fought and died to protect our freedoms, liberties, and rights. And our troops continuing to serve on the front lines to protect our homeland.

“Ensuring our troops are ready for the threats we face now and well into the future is something we should all celebrate.