The members of our military risk their lives to protect our families. I am encouraged that recently both Republicans and Democrats came together to support our military and national defense by passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), I take my role in helping to craft this critical legislation very seriously. A bipartisan tradition regarding the drafting of the NDAA has lasted over five decades, and in the Senate, this year was no different. The defense bill represents the combined efforts of members from both sides of the aisle.
The NDAA is an investment in our safety and our future, and it begins with addressing the readiness gaps that have materialized over the past decade when the Department of Defense was asked to do more with less. During testimony before the Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stated, “I have been shocked by what I have seen about our readiness to fight.” Other military leaders have given the same assessment.
This NDAA takes a first step toward rebuilding the military to improve its readiness and war-fighting capabilities under the direction of Secretary Mattis. The bill authorizes nearly $30 billion to address unmet requirements identified by our military leaders and our combatant commanders.
The bill also provides additional resources to address emerging threats. The Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which I chair, added $200 million to improve the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, or GMD, system. It is the only missile defense system capable of defending the homeland from long-range ballistic missiles, and the added money will help the system further develop ways to distinguish between hostile missiles and decoys or space debris. As the threats to our country grow, our defenses must continue to evolve.
The Senate NDAA also addresses another growing threat to our nation: cybersecurity. As technology has become more sophisticated and an ingrained part of life, the enemies of our country have worked to exploit weaknesses to harm the United States. During the last Congress, I served as the chairman of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee (ETC), which then had jurisdiction over our cyber capabilities, and we focused on strengthening our cybersecurity. The Senate Armed Services Committee has also created a new cyber defense subcommittee, of which I am a member, to focus on this threat specifically.
This year’s NDAA continued efforts begun by the ETC to improve how we man, train and equip our military’s cyber forces. We added over $700 million for cyber-related requirements and included many policy provisions devoted to cyber defenses, such as requiring the Department of Defense to undertake the first-ever Cyber Posture Review to evaluate the military’s cyber policy and capabilities.
Finally, I recently had the privilege of visiting Naval Station Norfolk, where I had the opportunity to meet with some of our nation’s best — the sailors and officers of the U.S. Navy. We had the opportunity to watch the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier head out to the Atlantic to join other U.S. Navy ships responding to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
We often associate defense spending as only about winning wars, and while that is its primary mission, the American people depend on our military personnel and equipment like the USS Abraham Lincoln during natural disasters, as well. The destruction and devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been the latest examples of our military at work. The Senate NDAA authorizes resources for our troops to respond to these crises.
It’s an honor to have been a part of drafting the NDAA as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I believe that one of the best ways to honor our military is to provide them with the resources they need to guard our nation and protect our freedom. This year the Senate showed its support by granting the funding our military needs to defend us.