August 03, 2020

Weekly Column: Providing For Our National Defense

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

One of the most critical jobs of Congress is providing for our national defense, and this is the 60th consecutive year that Congress has fulfilled its constitutional duty.  Our country’s Founders delineated this responsibility in Section 8 of our Constitution, providing Congress with the power to fund the common defense of the United States.  Congress has been moving forward with enacting the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (FY21 NDAA) to support our nation’s servicemembers as they prepare for and respond to national threats. 

While the final details of the legislation are expected to be worked out between the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Trump Administration, S.4049, the Senate-passed FY21 NDAA, which fellow Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and I supported when the Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 86 to 14, includes the following important measures:

  • 3 percent pay raise for our troops;
  • prioritizes support for family readiness, including spouse employment opportunities and child care;

  • ensures previous reforms to the military privatized housing program and to the military health system are implemented to rigorous standards; and

  • repairs gaps and weaknesses in the supply chain that the ongoing pandemic exposed and exacerbated.

The legislation also includes reforms aimed at improving the U.S. Department of Defense’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars and support system for our troops in the field.  Reforms included in the legislation would also address how the Department recruits and retains top civilian talent, particularly in high-demand science, technology and acquisition fields.

Throughout the process of crafting the legislation, I have advocated for additional priorities to enhance defense capabilities and advance Idaho’s nuclear energy efforts, which include the following provisions in the Senate-passed bill:

  • $137.8 million for sitewide safeguards and security at Idaho National Laboratory (INL);
  • $259.954 million for INL cleanup programs; and

  • $5 million for directed energy counter-unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology to address capability needs in airbase defense, precision strike and aircraft protection.

Additionally, my colleagues, including Senator Risch, and I were successful in securing authorization of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) to boost nuclear energy innovation by fostering partnerships between industry and our national laboratories, including the INL, to demonstrate the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors to provide clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy production and advance national security interests.  I also worked with my colleagues to secure an amendment requiring a briefing from the Secretary of Defense to Congress regarding implementation of a provision in the FY20 NDAA, which allows servicemembers to opt into having their contact information shared with state veterans’ affairs agencies to connect servicemembers to community groups providing job training, housing, mental health and other services. 

On July 21, 2020, the House of Representatives passed its version of the FY21 NDAA by a vote of 295 to 125.  As the details of the final legislation are resolved, I will continue to advocate for provisions important to Idaho and our nation’s defense.  I look forward to enactment of a final version of the FY21 NDAA that effectively backs American servicemembers, honors their enormous contributions to our security and protection of our freedoms and provides for their expedient and successful return to our communities following their service.  Fulfillment of this task is an essential part of our congressional responsibility and duty to the military families who give so much to our great country.  

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