“I want our men and women in uniform to know that we stand with them in their defense of this great country and all that it stands for.”
Jun 09 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today took to the Senate floor to encourage her colleagues to support the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with bipartisan support last month and is now being considered by the full Senate. Additionally, the Iowa Senator spoke about several of her amendments that are included in the bill, including provisions to improve program management and measures to combat sexual assault in the military.
Click here or on the image below to watch Senator Ernst’s full remarks
For more than 23 years, I had the great honor of serving in the Army Reserve and National Guard. It was during this time I was able to gain a first-hand experience of working alongside the unbelievable men and women in uniform whose character, honor, and love of our country has led them to sacrifice so selflessly for it. During my time in the military, I had the honor of serving a tour in Kuwait and Iraq.
As a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom, what was so important to me—other than bringing everyone home—was ensuring my troops received what they needed, when they needed it.
Unfortunately, given the nature of war and the learning curve our military had in its first large scale deployment since Operation Desert Shield/Storm, that did not always happen.
However, as the war went on, our military adapted and our troops were able to receive the equipment they needed to do the job.
Even though I am now retired from the military, I still have the privilege of serving our men and women in uniform, just in a different capacity, as a United States Senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.
It has been an honor to work with Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and the other distinguished members of the committee on another vital annual defense bill. Over the past year, my colleagues and I have worked to produce a bill which enhances the capabilities of our military to face current and future threats.
This bill will impart much needed efficiencies in the Department of Defense which will result in saving American taxpayer dollars and allow the Department to provide greater support to our warfighters through eliminating unnecessary overhead, streamlining department functions, reducing unnecessary General officer billets, and modernizing the military health care system.
Furthermore, we have found ways to enhance the capabilities of our warfighters, ensuring our troops have the training opportunities in order to be prepared to execute their assigned missions. This means more rotations to national training centers and more effective home station training for our troops who are being sent into harm’s way around the world.
Our military leaders have stressed that readiness is their top priority. Adequately funding their requests for readiness keeps faith with our servicemembers and ensures our men and women in uniform have the best chance to come home to their loved ones.
However, while we have adequately funded the Department's readiness needs, sequestration has led us to prioritize readiness over DoD modernization. I believe this is a risky proposition with respect to ensuring our servicemembers will have the advanced equipment, vehicles, ships, and aircraft to confront technologically advanced adversaries like Russia and China in a potential future conflict.
Unfortunately, I believe many have taken our decades-long technological dominance for granted. If we continue to fail to adequately fund modernization, our servicemembers may pay the price for that decision with their lives, something none of us want.
While I fully agree with the need to identify and reduce government spending and especially eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse in the DoD, we also must ensure funds are allocated in the proper areas so our troops have the resources they need so they are not outclassed by our adversaries who are currently modernizing their capabilities with aims to defeat our country in a potential conflict.
Due to sequestration and the Bipartisan Budget Act, this bill is short of what our troops need to defend our country this year, and in upcoming future years. I believe it is important to keep that in mind while we consider this bill.
I was sorely disappointed that the Senate did not come together in a bipartisan fashion and stop shortchanging our troops and their families through the arbitrary caps set through sequestration. That was a missed opportunity. The threats the nation and our troops face are too great for partisan bickering, shortsightedness, and the abdication of one of our core responsibilities which is to provide for our military.
I’d also like to talk about just a few of the provisions included in the NDAA which I crafted. During the process, I was able to author nearly two dozen provisions ranging from improving the professionalism of our military judge advocates and military intelligence professionals, to making retaliation against sexual assault victims its own crime, to enhancing DoD program management.
As I’ve stated repeatedly, one area of focus for me is working to prevent sexual assault in the military. And while we have seen progress, there are still steps that must be taken to improve the system and the overall culture.
One of my provisions would help enhance the military prosecutors and JAGs, to better ensure victims of sexual assault and other crimes can know their case is in good, well-trained and experienced hands.
Also included in this bill is a provision I authored with Senator McCaskill which combats retaliation within our military. We cannot allow any retaliation against survivors who come forward seeking justice, and this provision will work to curb the culture of retaliation in our ranks.
Other provisions I pushed included in the Committee report seek to bring greater military intelligence support to our warfighters by ending growth in headquarters elements and pushing that support from those headquarters elements down to those military intelligence units providing direct support to our warfighters. Not only do these report language provisions seek to enhance support to our men and women defending our nation on those front lines, but would also create safeguards which will help ensure your taxpayer dollars are being spent properly within the DoD.
This bill also includes my Program Management Improvement Accountability Act, which is a bipartisan piece of legislation that solves problems with program and project management that have plagued the federal government for decades, especially in the Department of Defense. We have read about these failures in the media, IG reports and the GAO High Risk List. Many projects are grossly over budget, delayed, or do not meet previously stated goals.
Ultimately, by strengthening its program management policies, the DoD and other federal agencies will better account for and utilize taxpayer dollars. It will also improve its ability to complete projects on time and on budget which leads to getting our troops the advanced equipment and weapons they need as soon as possible.
In closing Mr. President, I want to again thank my colleagues for their work on this bill, but most of all—I want our men and women in uniform to know that we stand with them in their defense of this great country and all that it stands for.
And with that Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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