Wicker: Senate Advances National Defense Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced that the Senate has approved this year’s “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA). The measure, S. 2943, contains several provisions that would benefit Mississippi’s soldiers, veterans, military installations, and defense manufacturing. The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 85-13.

“Years of budget cuts and shortsighted policy decisions have impacted our military’s capabilities and preparedness,” Wicker said. “The number of those serving our country – in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines – stands at its lowest total in decades. Although one defense bill is not enough to reverse this trend overnight, this legislation aims to stem the tide.

“The measure makes critical investments in new ships, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, radar systems, and other electronic warfare technology. These resources and equipment would help our troops face new and ever-changing threats. It would improve the military’s health system, reduce wasteful spending, and ensure that the United States can stand with its allies to protect our national security interests.

“It would also strengthen our economy and create jobs across the state. For example, thousands of families across south Mississippi will benefit from the construction of new amphibious ships for the Navy. I am hopeful that differences between the Senate and House bills will be ironed out soon so that we can send the bill to the President before July 4 – something that has not been done in decades.”

The legislation includes provisions supported by Wicker to maintain National Guard personnel levels and Army aviation force structure consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army. In response to the Army’s unvetted proposals to cut the size of the National Guard and reallocate the number of National Guard Apache helicopters, Senator Wicker and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., created the commission to make recommendations on the future of the Army.

Wicker also supported proposals to extend the prohibition on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States and to bar the Administration from closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay. The bill also does not authorize the Administration to initiate a new round of base realignment and closures.

NDAA would impact Mississippi in the following ways:

•Tupelo: Supports the recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army and recognizes the importance of the Army’s Apache helicopters.

•Columbus/Meridian: Allows student pilots to have adequate training and flying hours at Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station.

•Gulf Coast: Funds the full construction of 2 DDG-51 Destroyers, while providing incremental funding for a third DDG-51; advances a new LXR amphibious ship; and authorizes spending on a new LHA big-deck amphibious ship.