Lankford Praises NDAA Support of Oklahoma Military, Applauds Bipartisan Work
Lankford: “All around the world…there’s never a moment…where folks in the US military are not representing our nation and doing exactly what their nation is asking them to do.”
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) took to the Senate floor today to advocate for the annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This year marks the 60th year in a row that Congress will fulfill its duty to pass the bipartisan defense bill. The bill will authorize $740.5 billion in funding to support military construction projects, push a strong US national defense strategy, care for military families and the civilian workforce, regain US military advantage, and improve the Pentagon’s operations. Lankford introduced eight amendments to the annual defense bill to push for reforms include two of his top priorities to prevent government shutdowns and provide taxpayers more accountability. Both protect our national security in the face of incomplete management on behalf of the federal government.
Lankford also took a moment prior to his comments on NDAA to pray for the Tulsa police officers who were shot yesterday morning. He prayed, “Father, we do ask Your help for Sergeant Johnson and Officer Zarkeshan, You would intervene in a way that only You can. Help the doctors and nurses, give them wisdom. Give a sense of peace to those families as they struggle for answers. I pray for Chief Franklin and for all the Tulsa PD. God they need Your help in these moments. I pray that You would bring peace as only You can. In Your name, I pray. Amen.”
Senator Inhofe and Jack Reed have done pretty remarkable work. Working through all the NDAA and all that has to be done and the literally thousands of decisions that have to be made, it's pretty remarkable what they've done and I'm grateful for all of their work.
We lose track of the fact that there are folks in Afghanistan right now fighting to bring some kind of peace and stability to be able to push down terrorists that are in the area still. We lose track of the fact that they're US Army soldiers right now having dinner in a tent in Poland. There are folks in the United States Navy that are sound asleep in Guam, except for those folks that are standing watch. There are Marines in Okinawa right now that are asleep, but they won't be asleep very long. There are folks in the Air Force that are prepping for tomorrow's mission in South Korea.
All around the world, awake and asleep, there's never a moment and there's never a place where folks in the United States military are not representing our nation and doing exactly what their nation has asked them to do. We're grateful for those folks. This bill the NDAA this year gives a three percent pay increase to those folks. It ensures that we won't have another BRAC round of base closings here in the United States during this next fiscal year.
It deals with some of the ally relationships that we have in Taiwan, in Ukraine. It helps bring some of the folks that have worked as interpreters in Afghanistan for years to the United States. It deals with not just those in the military, but deals with their families as well. It allows additional funding to be able to help licenses move from state to state for those that are military spouses. It adds additional supervision for military housing to be able to make sure that we do better supervision there.
For bases and posts around Oklahoma it has very specific things. It fully funds a KC-46 and the B-21 program, it's very significant to Tinker and all the community around them. It deals with the 180 day rule modification. It's an amendment that I specifically put into this and it's something the folks at Tinker have asked for over and over again.
Those folks that are retiring in their uniform are interested in civilian spots. But under current practice, they have to wait 180 days before they can move from military to civilian will in that time here guess what happens? They get snatched up by defense contractor and we lose their skills and their wisdom that they had.
Why do we do that? Why did we literally punish one of our members, the military when they retire from the military after great service there and say if you're interested in continuing to be able to serve in the community that you're in, you have to wait six months before you can do it?
We put an addition in there to be able to expand this pilot program to be able to allow those folks to be able to move from uniform to civilian and to be able to compete for those jobs and not have to wait 180 days. At Altus Air Force Base it fully funds the KC-46. It prohibits stopping the KC-135 tankers until all the details are all worked out with the KC-46. Advance up in Enid, it funds the T-7 Red Hawk and the development of that, the replacement for the T-38. In McAlester, it funds the army McAlester munitions plant work there in the construction to increase the capability of the C-Line. That's an area where we have old munitions that have to come back to be disassembled in order to be safely disassembled. It’s a job a lot of folks don’t want because they’re handling old munitions, but its folks in McAlester that do it every day and we're very grateful for the work that they continue to do.
In Lawton-Fort Sill, it funds the pallet and integrated management system, a very significant advantage that we have. It's one of the things that everything that happens in Lawton in the fires they want all over the world. Whether you're in South Korea or whether you're in Saudi Arabia, they're interested in what's happening in Lawton. Even for some of our guardsmen in the Oklahoma National Guard. It protects the 137th stopping it kind of divestiture of their system for the MC-12, it continues that process.
It's a very significant build to the nation in our national defense and it pays attention to the people all over the world, but also takes care of the issues that we need to be able to resolve, to be able to have them trained, equipped and ready. Much of that happens in Oklahoma.
There's some specific things that are in this that I requested as well. If everyone in the military is familiar with the term DD-214, everyone after you get out the military where you go to VA or whatever it may be, they're interested in your DD-214. That's your records when you're active duty service.
Well, that's great if you're in active duty. The problem though is if you're a Reservist or Guardsman and there's 840,000 of those across the country, they don't get a DD-214 like the active duty do. And so in later years when they want to be able to prove their service record, they can't do that. We fixed that in this bill and it's amendment that I brought for the 13,400 Oklahomans that are in the Guard for them to finally have records for their service just like the active duty has records for theirs.
One of the things that I've focused in on as well is allowing religious accommodation and training for that in our military. Our members of the military have the same religious freedom as everyone else does. They’re to be accommodated in their faith no matter what their faith is in the United States military. But sometimes the training lacks on that and officers and JAG members sometimes struggle and say well for good order and discipline everybody just needs to put your faith aside.
Well, when you join the United States military, you're not required to also give up the Constitution. You're protecting it. You're allowed to be able to keep your faith and to be able to maintain that. This bill will allow some greater training and instruction to be able to make sure we protect the rights of each individual to be able to live their faith. We think that's important as well.
A lot of good things in this. Glad to be able to be a part of it and to be able to see this continue on even through some things that you may not think are really “military” in it.
Last year in the bill when it came out of conference, paid parental leave was added to it for federal employees. A lot of folks say, where did that come from? Well, it came from a House/Senate compromise and the House sent over documentation to add paid parental leave. But the problem was what the House had actually pulled together for paid parental leave, didn't work for a lot of folks. It left out people like the FAA and all the folks who work for FAA. It left out the TSA. It left out Article I judges.
So they don't get access. If you work for the FAA and TSA, you don't get access to paid parental leave, but other federal employees do. You know, we need to fix that.
I have an amendment in this bill that says let's treat all federal workers the same in this. If we’re going to pay parental leave, don't ignore the good folks who work at the FAA and TSA and other folks. So this actually fixes an error from last year's bill that came over from the House to be able to make sure all federal employees are treated equally. We can do this.
This is something we already have had wide, bipartisan support for. It's why we opened the bill with so many votes yesterday on a wide, bipartisan majority. Let's keep working on it and let's finish it out.
Let's get it done before the 4th of July so we can continue to be able to honor members of the United States military and to be able to thank them because they're literally standing watch across the earth right now on our behalf with that.
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