Martha Roby: Provide for the common defense

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Good news: the House of Representatives passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA is the annual bill that authorizes spending and policy for the entire military, including programs and efforts at installations in Alabama.

This one wasn’t easy, as ill-advised cuts in recent years have left Congress and military leaders with difficult choices. However, I’m pleased to report that this NDAA does right by our troops and authorizes necessary spending levels for the coming year.

Specific to Fort Rucker, this year’s NDAA authorizes:

  • $187 million for the procurement of 28 new Lakota helicopters for the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker;
  • $47 million for elementary school improvements on post at Fort Rucker.

Specific to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, the NDAA authorizes:

  • Critical funding for C-130 aircraft improvements, including $75 million for Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) installation and $33.2 million for C-130 engine upgrades;
  • A $10 million budget increase for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which has a facility at Gunter;
  • $7.6 million to replace the squadron operations facility at Dannelly Field;
  • $33 million for elementary and middle school renovations at Maxwell Air Force Base; and
  • $75 million in cyber operations procurement for the Commander of United States Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). Maxwell’s Air University recently launched the Air Force Cyber College which is focused on instruction in this emerging front of global warfare.

The bill also contains important authorizations for military personnel, including a 1.3 percent pay raise for troops, $281 million in funding to ensure commissaries stay open; and empowering commanders to permit service members to carry firearms at installations, reserve centers, and recruiting centers.

Overall the 2016 NDAA authorizes $611.9 billion, which includes both the base Department of Defense budget and funds for Overseas Contingency Operations. This is a great deal of taxpayer money, no question. But, I strongly believe that Congress must fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to “provide for the common defense” of this nation by equipping our Armed Forces with everything they need to fight the enemy and deter threats. In fact, one of my top priorities as your Representative in Congress has been to fight against harmful cuts to our military that erode our readiness capabilities and compromise national security.

Unfortunately, President Obama had previously threatened to veto this legislation, and some in the Senate may still try to block it. That will not stop me from fighting to get it passed. Over the last year I have been actively building a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers to make the case for protecting national defense in the budget. Working together, we will fight to build pressure on the Senate and President Obama to enact this 2016 NDAA into law and then follow it with a defense appropriations bill that fills in this funding authority structure.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her third term.

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