Over the years, sons and daughters of Nebraska have answered the call to serve. They are regular men and women, from every background and every walk of life, united by their desire to protect their homeland and the cause of freedom.
Though they may be “regular” men and women, they are also exceptional Americans and their spirit and sacrifice is an example that we should remember every day. That’s why I’m pleased to report that the Senate has come together in a bipartisan manner to pass the defense authorization bill for the 59th year in a row.
This year’s legislation – the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – authorizes a total of $750 billion in defense spending, which meets the level requested by President Trump and provides the Department of Defense with real budget growth in recognition of the increasing threats our nation faces.
This increase supports a 3.1% pay raise for our men and women in uniform. That is the largest pay raise for our all-volunteer force in a decade, and it is well-deserved.
The Senate NDAA authorizes full funding for the mission of the men and women of USSTRATCOM, including the sustainment of our current nuclear forces, as well as the modernization of the triad, our nuclear command and control systems, and the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex. This was a major focus for me as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has jurisdiction over USSTRATCOM.
As Nebraska’s senior senator, I have the honor of representing Offutt Air Force Base, the 55th Wing, and the Nebraska National Guard. The Senate NDAA authorizes several critical investments that support our uniformed personnel in Nebraska and would better enable them to fulfill their roles in defending the nation.
To achieve this, the bill authorizes full funding for the Air Force budget request to support the C-135 family of aircraft, the bedrock of the Wing. This includes significant upgrades to the capabilities of the RC-135, used across nearly every continent to provide intelligence to national leaders and battlefield commanders. It enables the continued conversion of KC-135 tankers to WC-135R nuclear detection aircraft and supports the ongoing OC-135 Open Skies recapitalization, two major priorities for the 55th Wing.
We have all experienced the impacts from the tragic flooding that hit our state this spring, and the destruction it caused left serious damage at our military installations as well.
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Restoring Offutt and Camp Ashland are a top priority for me, and I am happy to inform you that the FY 2020 NDAA authorizes millions of dollars in funding to aid in the continued recovery process.
To support this effort, two of my amendments were adopted that will directly assist with recovery, providing flexibility in military construction to speed up the rebuilding process and encouraging the military services and my fellow members of Congress to quickly rebuild Offutt Air Force Base and Camp Ashland.
As you know, one of the primary responsibilities of Congress is to provide for the common defense. That responsibility is written in the Constitution, and it is an oath each member of Congress swore to uphold.
I am reminded of that oath frequently when I am in Nebraska. Each time I shake hands with a Nebraskan in uniform, or meet a family member with a loved one overseas, I think about the responsibility we have and the debt we owe the ones who serve.
The Senate did its job by passing NDAA in a bipartisan fashion. We stepped up to take care of the brave Americans of our military who dedicate their lives every day to protect our nation.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.
Deb Fischer is a United States senator representing the State of Nebraska