Alabama delegation gets behind federal National Defense Authorization Act re-approval

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, funding the Pentagon and related military and intelligence operations through the next fiscal year.

The bill was a site for a great deal of activity by Alabama lawmakers, who mostly supported the bill. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, for instance, worked to keep a small fleet of littoral combat ships — in-shore frigates the Navy calls “networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats” — growing in the face of recent cuts.

Byrne told Alabama Today he is happy with Friday’s result.

“I am very proud of our efforts to secure authorization for three more Littoral Combat Ships,” Byrne said Friday, “My colleagues in Congress are continuing to realize what our Navy leaders have said all along: The LCS is a critical piece of our naval fleet. I will continue to work tirelessly to support our nation’s Navy and the hardworking men and women at the Austal shipyard in Mobile.”

Another member of the House Republican caucus from the Yellowhammer state, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, also voted “yea” on the measure and largely concurred with Byrne’s findings.

“The NDAA is critical in providing for our national defense,” Rogers, a six-term congressman from Alabama’s 3rd District. “I was proud of the provisions included under jurisdiction of the Strategic Forces subcommittee I chair. I was also pleased language was included in the legislation to help protect jobs at facilities funded by the Working Capital Fund, like the Anniston Army Depot.”

Rogers also offered an amendment to transfer out-of-date firearms to the federal Civilian Marksmanship Program:

“[A]s a gun owner and gun rights supporter, I was thrilled my amendment, which would allow the Army to transfer its surplus vintage firearms to the CMP, was also included. I hope the Senate acts soon on this important piece of legislation.”

U.S Rep. Gary Palmer also issued a statement Friday about his support of the measure, which now goes to the Senate for final  approval before heading to the desk of President Barack Obama.

Specifically he trumpeted his work with U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who joined him in supporting the bill.

“A strong America is vital to our national security, and to that of our allies.  The men and women who wear the uniform deserve to be given the equipment and training they need and the pay and benefits they earn.

“I am pleased that the Congress passed an amendment I co-sponsored offered by Rep. Mo Brooks.  This amendment stripped a provision that would have allowed illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the president’s unconstitutional executive order to join the military. I do not believe Congress should ratify the Administration’s illegal action, nor do I believe that the NDAA is the appropriate place to legislate concerning illegal immigration.”

The Senate is expected to take up the bill soon, though no timeline was immediately available at press time.

Amid the key provisions of the bill, according to staff analysis, are the following:

  • Reforms the acquisition strategy to make the process less burdensome while maintaining accountability;
  • Lays the foundation for reforming the military compensation system to help recruit and retain the best;
  • Mandates the implementation of the Pentagon’s planned 20 percent reduction in headquarters budgets and personnel;
  • Eliminates more than 460 mandated reports to free up vital manpower;
  • Creates a Job Training and Post-Service Placement Executive Committee to help move members out of military service and into the workforce;
  • Continues oversight and protection of our troops from sexual assault;
  • Reinforces the mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL);
  • Provides lethal aid to Ukraine in their fight against Russian-backed separatists;
  • Prohibits the closure of Guantanamo Bay; and
  • Authorizes a 2.3 percent pay raise for troops, compared with the President’s proposed 1 percent pay raise.

With full support of the Alabama delegation, the bill passed Friday afternoon by a largely party-line 269-151 vote on the House floor.

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