Senator Bob Corker on Monday released the following statement after voting against the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which exceeds the current budget caps by nearly $83 billion. The bill also designates $60 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is intended to provide emergency funding for military operations overseas but has been repeatedly abused to fund normal operations at the Departments of Defense and State in order to avoid exceeding statutory spending caps. The legislation passed by a vote of 89 to 8 and now heads to a conference committee between members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Senator Corker said, “We are deeply indebted to our brave men and women in uniform for their service to our country, and I am incredibly grateful for the work they do to defend our nation from a variety of threats every day. Unfortunately, this legislation not only blows the budget caps by nearly $83 billion but also exceeds the president’s funding request by more than $32 billion and continues the abuse of OCO as a budget gimmick. While I support investing the appropriate resources to ensure our troops have the tools they need, we cannot continue to do things the same way and deepen the fiscal crisis jeopardizing our national security. The inability to get our fiscal house in order is the greatest threat to our country, and I will continue fighting for an agreement that responsibly funds our military without adding to our massive deficits.”
Senator Lamar Alexander voted in favor.
He said, “Governing is about setting priorities, and this bill shows the men and women who serve in our armed forces are a top priority. We owe our service men and women in uniform a debt of gratitude, and the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act helps ensure they receive the support and resources they need.
“The defense bill not only authorizes pay raises for troops at Ft. Campbell and the Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, but also reforms and modernizes the military health care system to improve and expand access to care for military families. This bill also authorizes funding for advanced equipment to help ensure the men and women of the armed forces have the tools they need protect American interests at home and abroad.
“Finally, this legislation strengthens our national security by supporting important programs at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge to help maintain our nuclear weapons arsenal.”
The Senate legislation authorizes $692 billion in funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, which includes the following priorities:
- A 2.1 percent pay increase for members of the military, including troops at Ft. Campbell and the Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, and reauthorizes more than 30 bonuses and special payments for service men and women.
- $21 billion for Department of Energy national security programs, which support critical work in Oak Ridge.
- Modernizing our nation’s nuclear stockpile, including a replacement strategic missile submarine, defense-related environmental cleanup, and nuclear energy programs at the Department of Energy.
- Proposes to eliminate $1.8 billion in excessive and unnecessary spending and reinvests those savings in our military.
- Supports U.S. military forces stationed in Europe to counter Russian aggression.
- A prohibition on transferring detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the United States.
- Proposes funding for advanced equipment to help ensure the men and women of the armed forces have the tools they need protect American interests abroad and work with our allies to defeat ISIL, al Qaeda, and other violent extremist organizations.
- The bill seeks to reform and modernize the military health system to improve access to care, expand choices of health plans and modernize TRICARE, the Department of Defense health program for military service members, retirees and their dependents.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act on July 14 by a vote of 344-81. The House and Senate will now work to produce a conference report to send to the president’s desk so it can be signed into law.