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Lankford Stands Up for Freedom and National Security in Annual Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) offered several amendments to the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill to authorize funding for our military and related services. Included in his amendments were provisions to retain skilled veterans in our workforce, and non-competitive eligibility for high-performing civilian provisions to create more flexibility in temporary and term appointments, enhance hiring procedures employees.

“While Biden and the Democrats are focused on fighting climate change and inventing new ways to take Americans’ hard-earned money, Oklahomans are worried about things like national security, military readiness, inflation, rising energy prices, securing the southern border, and stopping Biden’s vaccine mandates. Biden’s priorities are clearly not Oklahomans’ priorities,” said Lankford. “I am offering several amendments to the defense bill to ensure we can continue to confront the national security challenges at our border and stop Biden’s vaccine mandate. Oklahoma service members and defense contractors have called my office furious that their Commander in Chief is forcing them to pick between their job and the COVID vaccine. I will continue to press these policies that actually help our military members now and stop the ongoing national security crisis at our southern border.”

Lankford offered his Stop Vaccine Mandates Act, which revoke’s President Biden’s abusive vaccine mandate on federal employees and contractors, as well as amendments to get to the bottom of the process for eligible service members to apply for and receive a religious accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, get information on military readiness due to Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on service members, and to resume construction of the southern border wall halted by the Biden Administration.

Since March, Lankford has worked to ensure Oklahomans and Americans are aware of Biden’s lack of enforcement at the border, including visiting the border to see first-hand the number of illegal migrants crossing, visiting both the Arizona and Texas borders to expose what was happening. In July, Lankford released a report that exposed billions in waste to pay contractors to babysit the border wall materials while the Biden Administration “studies” it, even though Congress already allocated the money to build the wall. Lankford grilled Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas on his ongoing delay to finish the wall.

Lankford’s amendments addressing the national security issues at our southern border and the impact of Biden’s vaccine mandate on our nation’s service members include:

  • Stop Biden’s vaccine mandates – This amendment would implement Lankford’s Stop Vaccine Mandates Act to repeal President Biden’s Executive Orders, which mandate vaccines for federal employees and federal contractors including Oklahoma defense contractors who have contacted Lankford’s office to ask him to stop the mandate.
  • Resuming border wall construction– This amendment would resume the contracts to complete the border wall, install the gates, and finish installing the technology. The Biden Administration suspended the contracts for the wall’s completion, and this amendment would go ahead with using funds already approved by Congress previously under the Trump Administration. Earlier this year, Lankford released a blistering report on $2 billion in wasted taxpayer dollars to pay Defense contractors not to build the border wall while more than 1,700,000 migrants attempted to cross the border this fiscal year—the highest number in recorded history. Biden ultimately ended the defense contracts to finish the wall despite Congress previously appropriating the money toward its completion.
  • Religious Accommodation IG Investigation – This amendment would address the growing concerns Lankford hears from service members who say their leadership is not properly reviewing their religious accommodation request and is instead providing blanket denials. This amendment would require an Inspector General (IG) investigation to determine whether each of the services complied with federal law and Department of Defense policy in determining religious accommodation requests. Lankford sent a letter to Defense Secretary Austin on September 20 to demand that we protect service members from being forced to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and serving in our nation’s military.

Lankford also offered the following amendments to address other defense-related areas:

  • Quad Cooperation on Critical Minerals: In light of the national security threat posed by China’s control of nearly two-thirds of the global supply of rare earth minerals, this amendment would encourage the Administration to leverage the partnership among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue nations to promote shared investment and development of this critical resource. This partnership should utilize the US Development Finance Corporation and its counterpart entities in Japan, Australia and India to support new development projects, production technologies, and refining facilities in order to produce a more reliable and secure supply chain of critical minerals. The Administration should report to Congress on its plans to initiate this partnership within 120 days of passage.
  • Anti-Human Trafficking in Defense Contracts – This provision would require OMB to report on the implementation of TITLE XVII of the FY13 NDAA, Lankford’s End Human Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, and require contracting officers to report credible information regarding human trafficking to the agency suspension and debarment officials.
  • Requirement to post a 100-word summary to regulations.gov – This provision is based on Lankford’s Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act (PATTA), which requires the notice of a proposed rule by a federal agency to include the internet address of a summary of the rule. The summary must be 100 words or fewer, written in plain language, and posted on regulations.gov. Last Congress, the standalone legislation was included in the Senate version of the NDAA.. 
  • Applying common-sense scientific standards government-wide – Per Lankford’s standalone bill, the BEST Act, this amendment takes the scientific standards from the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and applies them government wide. If the amendment is adopted, agencies would have to consider the reasonability, consistency, relevancy, clarity, completeness, uncertainty, and the extent of verification or peer-review of the science used in a proposed rule. In addition, agencies would make publically available all notices, determination, findings, rules, consent agreements, a non-technical summary of each risk evaluation, and other studies considered by the agency.
  • Annual Report on blended workforce – This amendment would require agencies to submit an annual report to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that includes the total number of individuals employed, including prime contractors and subcontractors, and the total number of employees of federal grant and cooperative agreement recipients. The report also requires agencies to report the number of employees appointed through competitive service or through a noncompetitive appointment process.
  • Conscience Protections This amendment would ensure the DOD will not compel any member of the Armed Forces to participate in a medical procedure that violates the service member’s conscience based on a sincere religious or moral belief or because it is against the service member’s best medical judgement. Lankford introduced the Conscience Protection Act as a standalone bill earlier this year.
  • DFC Port & Air Field Infrastructure As China continues to grow their influence through infrastructure development around the world, this amendment encourages the Defense Department to provide an alternative to China’s investment by utilizing entities such as the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to increase the port and air field capacity of nations throughout the Indo Pacific who are targets of Beijing’s predatory infrastructure development scheme.
  • Retain Skilled Veterans – This Amendment would limit the six-month waiting period that a military retiree must wait until he or she can enter a civilian job at the DOD for which he or she is qualified to GS-14 and above, essentially repealing the waiting period for positions GS-13 and below.
  • Criteria for granting direct-hire authority to agencies – This amendment updates the standard by which agencies can directly hire to fill critical needs. The current standard in statute is an agency may directly hire after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “determined that there exists a severe shortage of candidates.” This would change “shortage of candidates” to “shortage of highly qualified candidates.” Agencies would still have to make the case that there is a shortage and OPM would have to approve the request. Lankford recently introduced proposals by Oklahoma service members to help improve federal hiring and contracting processes.
  • Flexibility for temporary and term appointments –This amendment would allow an agency to make a temporary appointment to a position in the competitive service when the need for the services of the employee is not permanent. This section allows an agency to extend a temporary appointment in one year increments to a maximum of three total years of service, and a term appointment in increments determined by the head of the agency up to a maximum of six total years of service. 
  • Expedited hiring authority for recent graduates This amendment removes the cap on direct federal hiring and would give federal agencies the authority to directly hire recent grads as long as the total number does not exceed 15 percent of its annual hiring number. 
  • Noncompetitive eligibility for high-performing civilian employees – This amendment  allows an Executive Branch agency to directly rehire an individual who (1) is certified by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as having been a high-performing employee when they were in a competitive service position; (2) have been separated from service for less than 6 years; and (3) is qualified for a new position in the competitive service. This provides flexible career paths for federal employees by allowing them to easily leave and re-enter federal service. This also benefits the federal government by allowing agencies to easily re-hire individuals who have gained skills in the private sector.
  • Definition of Extremism – This amendment would define “extremism” for purposes of military conduct and ensures our military members are afforded their rights under existing non-discrimination laws. There have been growing concerns that the lack of a firm definition of extremism used by the DOD might be used against those with conservative viewpoints.
  • Certification Requirement for GTMO Detainees This Amendment requires the executive branch to provide a classified briefing on the transfer restrictions of all Guantanamo Bay detainees approved for transfer both before and after the transfer has been completed. These briefings must address the threat posed by the individual to the national security of the United States.
  • Secretary of Defense Sign-Off on transfer of GTMO detainees This amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to personally review and approve any detainee transfers, sign any transfer agreement from Guantanamo Bay and this duty cannot be delegated. The Secretary will provide an annual classified report to Congress for five years after a detainee transfer regarding every detainee’s whereabouts and activities.
  • Limitation on Conduct of Medical Research by Department of Defense – This amendment states that the Secretary of Defense shall ensure all medical research conducted by the Department of Defense directly addresses treatment of diseases, injuries, or illnesses related to service in the Armed Forces.
  • Oversight of Chinese Debt – This amendment would review Chinese-owned debt throughout the world and ensure the Department of State has a dedicated staff member at every embassy focused on monitoring and reporting on projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative.