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Holland Sentinel: Upton, Huizenga: Working together to strengthen our military

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Washington, May 22, 2016 | comments

Working together to strengthen our military

By U.S. Reps. Fred Upton and Bill Huizenga

Holland Sentinel

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is the primary way Congress meets its most important constitutional obligation: To “provide for the common defense” of our country.

Last week, the House of Representatives advanced H.R. 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 by a bipartisan vote of 277-147. This is an important step toward strengthening our military and keeping our country safe.

Last September, we joined our colleagues on a congressional delegation tour of the military instillations throughout Michigan. This exceptional opportunity gave us the chance to see firsthand the important role Michigan has in shaping and leading our military. Seeing our men and women in uniform here at home strengthened our commitment to our military and their families.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama does not seem to share this commitment. By threatening to veto this bipartisan legislation, the president is putting the lives of our men and women at risk.

Over the past 12 months, we have seen Russia, Iran and North Korea take increasingly aggressive positions against the United States. Elsewhere in the world, we have seen radical Islamic jihadists carryout horrific attacks in Brussels and Paris while continuing their assault against Christians, Muslims and Jews throughout the Middle East.

Now more than ever, our military must have the flexibility and capability to defend our citizens, our country and our interests across the globe at a moment's notice. The reality of the situation is our military is currently suffering from a readiness gap. For example, of the 271 strike aircraft in the Marine Corps, only 46 are available for flight operations. We must do better, and we need to make sure our troops have the tools and equipment needed to plan, execute, and complete their missions. This year’s NDAA makes specific investments into critical programs identified by our military leader to improve readiness and close this readiness gap that President Obama chose to ignore.

As our lives become more integrated with technology, the importance of cyber security also grows. Our future depends on a reliable and secure cyberspace for everything from civilian infrastructure and commerce to military logistics and communication. The 2017 NDAA elevates U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) to a unified command bringing together resources from each branch of the military rather than each having its own individual operation. It also fully funds $6.7 billion for cyber operations and readiness of Cyber Mission Forces, which directly impacts our CYBERCOM team in Battle Creek.

Furthermore, this year’s NDAA contains the annual restrictions against transferring detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States or modifying facilities in the United States for housing detainees because using the closing of Guantanamo as a political bargaining chip would only hurt our efforts to fight terrorism. Our bill also prohibits the Department of Defense from using any funds to transfer the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba.

This bipartisan bill also contains a well-deserved pay raise for our service members, and blocks the president’s ability to reduce their pay. We will continue to work on a bipartisan, bicameral basis as the NDAA moves from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate and then to the president’s desk. If the president follows through on this veto-threat, we will work to override his veto. Our men and women in uniform, and their families, deserve nothing less.

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