Wicker Holds Pentagon Accountable

Senate Oversight Compelling DOD to Follow the Law

June 10, 2024

The Founding Fathers gave Congress the job of writing and passing bills. They also tasked it with holding the president accountable to enforcing those bills after they become law.

I serve as the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, the team of senators responsible for drafting Congress’ annual military legislation.

One year ago, the committee met to vote on the package, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was then passed by both Houses and signed into law at the end of 2023.

Since then, I have been working to ensure that the Department of Defense (DOD) is following Congress’ directives.

Most of the provisions in that law focus on core warfighting efforts – delivering our armed forces the latest and most powerful ships, planes, munitions, missiles, and cyber capabilities. In the legislation, we made special efforts to improve the lives of service members and their families and to help secure our border.

Caring for Military Families

The brave men and women in uniform have always been the strongest link in the chain of our nation’s security. Any defense legislation must first take care of these heroes.

The U.S. military runs many schools at bases around the world, and the latest NDAA strengthened the role parents play in the education their children receive at these institutions. We passed what has been termed a “parents bill of rights.” Among its provisions are guarantees that mothers and fathers can review curriculum, library books, and instructional materials used in their child’s school.

Securing the Southern Border

In an investigation, I found that the Pentagon was spending millions of dollars to store, rather than install, border wall panels bought under the Trump administration. I authored and successfully passed the FINISH IT Act in the NDAA to force DOD to use these materials or sell them to those who would. The department has since offered up some of these construction materials, and Texas, California, and Customs and Border Patrol have requested access to them.

Of course, by sitting on these border wall materials, military leaders were taking cues from their commander-in-chief. Last week, after three years of inaction, the president announced new, yet half-hearted, border measures. The Pentagon’s waste of available materials and the president’s executive actions both prove that this administration has had the power to secure our southern border all these years yet failed to do so.

Refocusing DOD on Warfighting

In the last few years, political leaders had established a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy at the Pentagon. Congress curtailed that growing workforce through provisions in last year’s NDAA.

One way we blunted their efforts was through the MERIT Act. I wrote this law to preserve the tradition of personal responsibility that has always characterized American military service. Some on the left had proposed factoring in demographic identity when making personnel decisions at DOD. The MERIT Act requires the Pentagon to focus on a candidate’s individual achievement when evaluating them for a position.

I have found that DOD is ignoring the law by considering race when making personnel decisions. I will continue opposing this illegal practice, which pits service members against one another based on factors no one can control.

This month, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee will move forward on the next NDAA. In it, I will introduce measures to strengthen the MERIT Act, and I am committed to making sure DOD follows the entirety of this important annual legislation.