South Dakota Well-Represented in Defense Authorization Bill
Every year for nearly 60 years, Congress has worked in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). By the end of 2019, we will have passed the 59th NDAA in a row. This one, which authorizes funding for the military for Fiscal Year 2020, includes some major wins for South Dakota, to include Ellsworth Air Force Base and Dakota State University (DSU).
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of our Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I worked with my colleagues to make sure a number of important provisions were included in the NDAA. This year’s bill provides the resources necessary to rebuild and improve our military while also taking care of our troops and their families. It provides the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, and includes measures to help military families with housing, childcare and moving expenses.
Our bill will fully fund the B-21 Raider bomber program, which will help keep the program on time for the B-21 to come to Ellsworth Air Force Base in the mid-2020s. In March, then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that Ellsworth was selected to receive the training squadron and the first operational squadron of B-21 Raiders, which are the Air Force’s next-generation stealth bombers. This decision solidified the important role Ellsworth will play in our national defense for years, if not generations, to come. Making sure the B-21 Raider program is fully funded and delivered on time has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for me. The NDAA also fully funds additional purchases of the F-35A Lightning II fighter jets. The more of these that are purchased in the future, the greater the possibility that we will get them assigned to South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing, which is based at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls. The unit’s current aircraft is the F-16 Block 40.
Legislation I offered to establish a cyber consortia for certain universities, including Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, was also included in the final NDAA. The consortia will provide an opportunity for schools designated as National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security Centers of Academic Excellence to lend their cybersecurity expertise to the Department of Defense. The consortia can also pave a path for college students studying cybersecurity to work on important national security issues following their graduation. Our government needs highly skilled cybersecurity employees, and students who graduate from DSU have some of the best education available for the cybersecurity workforce.
The armed forces have dealt with years of underfunding which has diminished combat readiness. Thanks to President Trump, our Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. Jim Inhofe, senior Defense Department leaders and our bipartisan Armed Services Committee, we are making progress to rebuild and strengthen our armed forces. The NDAA further solidifies the integral role South Dakota will continue to play in the defense of our nation for many years to come. I am proud to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and be part of its efforts to make certain our troops have the tools they need to keep us safe.