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Senator Lankford Applauds Senate Passage of FY20 Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a vote of 86-8. The NDAA is an annual defense bill to support the nation’s military and to ensure national security for the US. Yesterday, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor in support of the NDAA and several of its key provisions that help support Oklahoma’s defense community and to discuss the impact of Iran on our nation’s military and national security efforts. The bill supports the President’s full request of $750 billion for Department of Defense funding.

“Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe has worked tirelessly and in a bipartisan manner to lead this year’s efforts toward a bill that supports our Armed Forces and helps secure our nation,” said Lankford. “The bill includes important funding and authorization that are critical to supporting our Oklahoma veterans, active duty military, Guard, and Reserve components as well as the missions of all of our installations, bases, and Guard facilities. I am grateful for the bipartisan work of Senators Inhofe and Reed to include many important provisions addressing the retirement age for chaplains, addressing base housing issues, and ensuring we expand support for military spouses seeking employment.

“One important component to safeguarding our nation’s security and that of our allies is the inclusion of my F-35 provision in this year’s defense spending bill to prevent Turkey from receiving the fifth-generation fighter jet. The sensitive and state-of-the-art F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been a collaborative NATO effort and is vital to sustaining our nation’s qualitative military edge over our near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China. But Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400, a surface-to-air defense system created to target and destroy the F-35, would put the sensitive military technology in the F-35 at risk. Turkey cannot have both Russian and American defense equipment sitting side by side. As long as Turkey insists on acquiring Russian radar technology, it is appropriate for the US to withhold the transfer of our fifth-generation fighter jets.

“I look forward to the House passing their version of the NDAA so that we can go to conference and finalize this important annual bill and get it to the President’s desk, so our military and defense communities can continue to move forward with their missions.”

Lankford cosponsored an amendment to the FY20 NDAA in the Committee-approved bill that would prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. This provision also applies to equipment, intellectual property, technical data necessary for the maintenance or support of the F-35, and for the construction of facilities to store the F-35 in Turkey.  This provision is similar to a standalone bill introduced by Lankford, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) earlier this year. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase more than 100 aircraft.

Lankford also worked to see a provision in the final text that would waive the age-of-mandatory-retirement requirements for military chaplains, many of whom join the service later in their careers after serving in ministry. Additionally, the final version included a number of important provisions that help Oklahoma military installations, including:

  • a 3.1 percent raise for all service-members, the largest pay raise in nearly a decade
  • $2.8 billion for 15 KC-46A refueling tankers connected to the missions of both Altus and Tinker Air Force Bases
  • Authorization for the T-X program, which positively impacts Vance Air Force Base
  • Provision of $18 billion for family housing to address facility issues like the ones reported at Tinker Air Force Base
  • Continuation of the Paladin Integrated Management system upgrade program, which directly impacts the mission at Ft. Sill
  • Authorization of funding for the second phase of the training barracks at Ft. Sill, fulfilling the President’s request
  • Language to enhance DOD’s use of direct-hire authority in last year’s NDAA, which will positively impact Tinker and the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.
  • Authorization for DOD to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to assist with funding and development of interstate compacts on licenses for military spouses.
  • Extension of the ability of DOD to reimburse spouses for licensure and certification costs by two years.

Lankford introduced legislation this month that will expand the eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to spouses and children of members of the National Guard and Reserves who died of service-connected causes but whose deaths did not occur when the member was on active duty. Lankford also introduced the Reserve Component DD-214 Act of 2019, which is a bipartisan effort to help reserve component members of the US Armed Forces, including members of the Reserves and National Guard, receive the benefits they have earned following their retirement or completion of service.