Submitted by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker
Conservatives Secure Major Wins for U.S. Military
The military can breathe a sigh of relief now that Congress has approved defense legislation for the coming year. After months of delay, the National Defense Authorization Act finally cleared the Senate on Wednesday, unlocking military funding for 2022. The legislative process for this bill is usually smooth and bipartisan, but this year, Democrats kept the bill in limbo for months while trying to include a string of left-wing priorities. Those ideas were ultimately stripped from the bill thanks to persistent Republican efforts.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I helped negotiate this legislation and am glad to see it reach the President’s desk. This bill makes historic investments in military research, supplies, and weaponry to keep our adversaries at bay. And it includes vital support for U.S. service members and their families, who sacrifice every day to keep us safe.
Congress Approves Ships, Pay Raises, Building Projects
This year’s defense bill authorizes $777 billion for national security needs, which is an increase of $25 billion over President Biden’s low budget request. This funding will help finance 13 new ships for the Navy, including at least one destroyer to be built in Mississippi. It will also strengthen our missile defense system and continue our longstanding support for Israel. In addition, it will enhance the security of our allies Taiwan and Ukraine, which are under increasing threats from their hostile neighbors, China and Russia. The bill will also fund construction projects at military bases, including a $15 million vehicle maintenance facility at Camp Shelby. And it will provide grants to continue funding research into defense technologies, which will benefit Mississippi universities.
This bill will also directly help our military service members and their families. It will provide an across-the-board 2.7 percent pay increase for our troops, which is essential given the soaring inflation rate. It will also improve military leave policies, health care, and housing, and will make it easier for military spouses to find jobs. In response to the President’s military vaccine mandate, Republicans successfully added a provision to make sure no service member who refuses the COVID-19 vaccine receives a dishonorable discharge.
Republicans Defeat Lift-Wing Proposals
This bill is also noteworthy for the radical proposals that Republicans kept out. I am proud that my Republican colleagues and I were able to remove the requirement that women register for the draft. As a grandfather to six young girls, I believe military opportunities should be available to both men and women. But I reject the idea of sending our daughters and granddaughters into combat against their will.
Republicans also blocked several measures aimed at turning our military into a left-wing social experiment. One such provision would have forced the military to hire full-time “gender advisors” and to include “gender analysis” in training curriculum. Republicans also blocked an ill-conceived effort to force nearly all female Marines to become drill instructors. In addition, we stopped a provision that would have required the military to track our troops’ involvement in “extremist activities” without ever defining what “extremist” means. This overly vague language could have been used as a tool to punish legitimate political speech and activities, which service members are free to pursue in their private lives.
Once these radical proposals were removed, the bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 88-11, proving that bipartisanship is alive and well when it comes to our nation’s security needs. This legislation will keep our troops focused on defending our country and winning wars rather than wasting time and money on political correctness. America will be safer as a result.
# # #
Submitted by Senator Roger Wicker