Wicker Champions Nat’l Security Priorities, Military Readiness in Defense Bill

May 23, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has successfully added numerous national security and military readiness provisions to the FY2015 “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA). The bill was passed by the committee yesterday and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

“Ensuring that our military and defense operations have the tools they need to keep our nation secure is one of Congress’s most important responsibilities,” Wicker said. “That is why I fought to include a number of provisions to strengthen military readiness, protect the National Guard from the Administration’s misguided cuts, and bolster the nation’s amphibious shipping fleet.”

The bill, which passed the committee by a vote of 25-1, authorizes $514 billion in funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Wicker voted in favor of the legislation.

Equipping U.S. Naval Forces With a New LPD-17 Warship

“I am pleased to announce that the committee has passed my amendment to authorize funding for a 12th LPD-17 warship,” Wicker said. “Amphibious warships send a powerful signal to our adversaries and allies that America’s military remains strong. This new ship would help guarantee that our fighting forces have dependable and modern equipment when defending America in dangerous and hostile parts of the world.”

The nation’s current amphibious fleet of 29 ships falls far short of the Marine Corps requirement for 38 ships. Earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the House Armed Services Committee that “We probably need 50 [amphibious ships].  If we want to do everything that we’re asked to do.”

Protecting our National Guard

The committee included an amendment sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Wicker to delay for one year the Army’s efforts to reduce the number of National Guard personnel. The amendment also stalls the transfer of National Guard Apaches to the Army with the exception of 48 Apaches that the Guard had agreed to transfer prior to the introduction of the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative.

“The National Guard is facing drastic changes to its role as a ready reserve force of the Army,” Wicker said. “In an effort to combat the Obama Administration’s misguided proposal to reduce Army personnel and reorganize its aviation program, the Graham-Wicker amendment would safeguard our well-trained units and facilities while the independent commission carefully assesses the Army’s needs.”

The Graham-Wicker amendment creates a commission to study the future of the Army. This independent commission is required to make a recommendation on size and force structure to Congress by February 2016.

Modernizing the Army’s Air Fleet

Wicker succeeded in passing an amendment to authorize $612.6 million in procurement for the UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).  The Secretary of Defense directed the Army to procure 100 additional LUH for training rather than transfer any from the National Guard. Additional funds would authorize the procurement of 90 new aircraft to replace the Army's legacy aviation training aircraft.

Protecting U.S. Interests

In response to the controversy over the Obama Administration’s potential nondisclosure of INF Treaty violations by the Russian Federation, Wicker successfully pressed for an amendment mandating that the Department of Defense immediately notify Congress if the agency becomes aware of further violations.

“This amendment would ensure that Congress has all the information necessary to maintain its oversight responsibilities,” Wicker said. “It simply requires DOD officials to certify that the findings in our arms control reports reflect the information and best military judgment. It is essential that the Senate be informed of Russian compliance with existing treaties as we potentially consider future arms agreements with Moscow.”

Senator Wicker also supported an amendment sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to extend a one-year prohibition of the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen.

“In the past, some detainees who have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay have managed to find their way back in the fight against America,” Wicker continued. “Now is not the time to send these dangerous individuals to a country that has a weak record of keeping them where they belong – locked up.”

Additionally, Wicker included a measure to require the Defense Intelligence Agency to brief Congress on intelligence threats to U.S. interests based on Chinese surveillance operations against U.S. facilities and personnel in Japan.

Preventing Military Suicide

An amendment sponsored by Senators Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Wicker was adopted by the committee to require annual mental health assessments for all service members, including members of the Active, Guard and Reserve components. Currently, the military provides the most effective mental health screening only for those who are preparing for or returning from deployment, despite research that shows the majority of military suicides occur among service members who have never deployed.

“This measure would immediately put into practice steps to give every member of our military the help they need in a safe and private manner. These men and women sacrifice so much for our country and deserve our full support.”

The amendment is based on the “Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014” coauthored by Donnelly and Wicker.

Leveling the Playing Field

Finally, Wicker led the charge to eliminate the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) monopoly as the sole green building standard for DOD residential construction.  Currently, alternative standards are allowed only for the construction of DOD non-residential buildings.

“Transparent and fair rating systems need to be used as building policies are being updated,” Wicker added. “DOD should not rely on standards that add costs and blatantly disregard American wood products.”