WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s veto of the “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA):
“Providing for the national defense is solely a federal responsibility. NDAA authorizes $612 billion in defense spending – the very amount that President Obama requested in his budget proposal. As commander in chief, he should have signed the measure into law instead of using it as leverage in a fight over domestic spending. His misguided veto puts a hold on important pay raises for our troops, cuts to wasteful spending, and improvements to quality-of-life programs for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. It also stalls a major reform that would allow our younger troops to contribute to their retirement without having to serve a full 20 years. I am hopeful that Congress will soon act in a bipartisan way to override the President’s veto.”
The NDAA conference report, H.R. 1735, passed the Senate by a veto-proof majority vote of 70-27. The House passed the measure by a vote of 270-156.
NDAA and defense appropriations would impact Mississippi in the following ways:
- Tupelo: Recognizes the importance of the Army’s Apache helicopters and the Tupelo Army Aviation Support Facility.
- Columbus/Meridian: Allows student pilots to have adequate training and flying hours at Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station.
- Starkville: Completes the Army Reserve Center for equipping and training military personnel.
- Gulfport-Biloxi: Supports a new Army National Guard Aviation Depot at the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport, as well as the continued mission of over 11,000 Americans who work at Keesler Air Force Base.
The bill also includes:
- Equipping U.S. Naval Forces with New Amphibious Ships: Senator Wicker included a provision to authorize $476 million in advance procurement for an additional America-class amphibious assault ship, as well as $250 million in research and development funding for the next generation of amphibious ships. The nation’s current amphibious fleet of 30 ships falls short of Global Combatant Commander requirements, which call for more than 50 amphibious ships. The measure also authorizes more than $3.5 billion for the construction of two new DDG-51 destroyers, $550 million for a new LPD-17 amphibious ship, and approximately $476 million for a replacement LHA amphibious ship.
- Ensuring the Vitality of the National Guard: Included are provisions supported by Senator Wicker to maintain National Guard personnel levels and prevent additional Apache helicopters from being transferred away from the Army National Guard. Last year’s defense bill included a provision authorized by Senator Wicker and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that created 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: Senator Wicker succeeded in securing a provision to authorize $187.2 million in procurement for 28 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters (LUH). These helicopters would be used to replace the Army’s legacy aviation training aircraft.
- Preventing Military Suicide: The committee included provisions based on the “Military and Veterans Mental Health Provider Assessment Act of 2015” coauthored by Senator Wicker and Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., requiring the Secretary of Defense to ensure that all primary care and mental health care providers of the Department of Defense receive evidence-based training on the recognition, assessment, and management of individuals at risk for suicide.
- Ensuring Religious Freedom in the Military: Senator Wicker included a provision that encouraged DOD to continue supporting service members’ rights to express sincerely held religious beliefs.