One of my primary responsibilities as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower is addressing the annual needs and reforms of the Navy and Marine Corps. The subcommittee works to craft provisions for the “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA), offering our naval and Marine leaders a comprehensive blueprint for achieving U.S. interests and troop readiness. The overall bill outlines the entire budget for the Department of Defense and national security programs at the Department of Energy.
Even in times of extreme gridlock, NDAA has always been a prime example of bipartisan agreement and cooperation. Democrats and Republicans have worked together to pass the nation’s premier defense bill for the past 53 years. I am pleased that this year’s bill supports shipbuilding, the future vitality of our National Guard, and a modern Army air fleet.
Earlier this month, the full Armed Services Committee approved NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016 with overwhelming support. The bill is expected on the Senate floor as soon as next week, putting its vote months ahead of when the Democrat-led Senate passed the legislation last year.
Mississippi’s Imprint on National Defense
Our state continues to play an active role in preparing our armed forces for their missions. My oversight responsibilities on the Seapower Subcommittee and Commerce Committee recently took me to Connecticut and Rhode Island, where Mississippi’s contributions were on full display. My visit included tours of two submarine factories in Quonset Point, R.I., and Groton, Conn., the Naval Submarine Base at New London, Conn., and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, also in New London. At the factories, I saw firsthand how components made by Mississippians at Seemann Composites in Gulfport are helping build the next generation of America’s submarines. At the naval base and Coast Guard Academy, I visited with Mississippians who have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving our country. Some of these future Coast Guardsmen may one day carry out their duties on national security cutters built at Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula.
Honoring Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day
Our state’s military pride extends far beyond current defense priorities. As we gather to celebrate Memorial Day, we should remember the Mississippians who have a special place in the holiday’s history. In 1866, a group of women put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus. The touching gesture earned national attention, inspiring today’s tributes and salutes.
America’s heroes are not alone in their sacrifice. They are supported day in and day out by loved ones. On Memorial Day, we also remember the husbands, wives, children, and siblings who have lost members of their family in the line of duty.
Maintaining a strong national defense is one way to honor the Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who continue to serve today. The defense bill and a robust defense industrial base are important to this process, ensuring that our warfighters have the equipment they need to fulfill diverse and increasingly complex missions. We live in a volatile world with unprecedented challenges, and our defense priorities should reflect this reality. In preparing for the future, we continue the cause that millions of Americans have represented throughout history – the promise of freedom and peace throughout the world.