WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference ahead of President Obama’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA), U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today highlighted the challenging landscape of the Middle East and the need to provide for our military and servicemembers engaged in the fight against terrorism.

Following the President’s veto of NDAA, Senator Ernst added: “I am extremely disappointed that President Obama vetoed a bipartisan bill which authorizes the funding level he requested and helps put our country on solid footing to stave off terrorist threats. At a time when our nation faces increasingly complex security challenges, I urge my colleagues in Congress to remain united in our efforts to ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources and support they need and deserve.”

Audio of the press conference is available here and a transcript of the Iowa Senator’s remarks is below.

TRANSCRIPT:

“Thank you everyone for being here today, and to the Chairmen also for their very hard work on this important piece of legislation. Good afternoon everyone.

“Over the weekend I returned from a Congressional Delegation trip to Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan with a few of my Senate colleagues.

“The trip for me was very eye opening. Even though I served in the Middle East with the Iowa National Guard, I was still taken back by the current situation on the ground. It was quite evident—even on my short trip to the region—that the situation on the ground poses a greater threat to our homeland, US interests, and our allies, than the Obama Administration has led the American people to believe.

“My time in the region taught me this—the men and women in Afghanistan – those that are deployed there – are on the front lines of a very serious war, and they are extremely concerned about the level of troops and military capabilities in the region to stay safe.

“When we said ‘Never Again’ after 9/11, the American people meant it. If we send Americans into harm’s way in Afghanistan, we owe them the military capabilities necessary to defeat terrorist safe havens and to ensure the Afghan government can develop a credible security force to defend themselves.

“ISIS has made it into Afghanistan, and they continue to spread and grow. We are very much losing our voice and leadership in the region.

“The Middle East is a disaster. I’ve been here almost 10 months and having been sent to war by many of the people still serving in Congress today, it’s extremely disappointing that with all this unrest in the Middle East, the President would even entertain the thought of vetoing the NDAA.

“Ultimately, we must never forget the folks overseas engaging in this fight every single day. We have brave Iowans and servicemembers from across the country putting themselves in harm’s way. We must always ensure that we are united in supporting their efforts.

“Thank you very much I am pleased to join our members here today.”

To read more about the NDAA, which President Obama vetoed today, click here.

Summary of Senator Ernst’s Provisions in NDAA:

  • A provision which provides the President with the legal authority, if the President finds the Government of Iraq is not increasing its political inclusiveness, to directly arm the Kurdish Regional Government, in coordination with the Iraqi government to the extent necessary, to fight ISIS. This provision also provides the sense of Congress on the severity of the threat posed by ISIS to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq, including Iraqi Kurdistan, and the security and stability of the region and the world. It also shares the sense that the U.S., in coordination with our coalition partners, provide without undue delay – the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga with the weapons and equipment, and training necessary to more effectively partner with the U.S. and other international partners to defeat ISIS.
  • A provision to improve the Clay Hunt SAV Act pilot program by requiring outreach of the VA’s community-based veteran peer support network to our wounded, ill, and injured service members, as well as all service members within 180 days of leaving service. This provision will ensure the VA will be proactive, instead of reactive, with its outreach to those who have sacrificed for our nation on this important mental health pilot program.
  • A provision requiring a joint report to the Senate Armed Services Committee from the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy, a plan to jointly modernize Army and Marine Corps small arms during a 15-year period. This provision seeks to reduce duplication of efforts between the services, potentially realize cost savings in developing common small arms weapons and technology, and improve the committee’s oversight of the modernization strategies of both of the branches of service whose primary mission it is to fight and win our nation’s land conflicts.
  • A provision, for the next five years, which provides new or current leases on Army Ammunition Plants, under the Army’s ARMS initiative, the option of extending a 25-year lease for an additional 25-year period. This provision will attract and retain greater investment, reduce facility sustainment cost, and provide a boost to some local communities - including the Des Moines County Iowa Army Ammunition Plant.
  • A provision which extends the National Guard State Partnership Program for five years.

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