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Weekly Column: Protecting our Troops by Reauthorizing NDAA

During the eight years I worked as governor of South Dakota, I had the honor of serving as the commander-in-chief of South Dakota’s National Guard forces. My first term began in 2003, right at the start of the war in Iraq. I attended ceremonies for our military men and women as they deployed to active duty and welcomed them home upon their return. I ask that everyone continue to remember the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and did not return home. These brave men and women and their families sacrifice everything to protect America and the freedoms bestowed to us. We owe it to them to give our full support of their efforts.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I joined an overwhelming majority of my colleagues to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 out of committee. Recognizing that the defense of our country is not a partisan issue, we came together to produce a bipartisan bill that supports our troops and provides them with the necessary tools to successfully accomplish their dangerous and demanding missions.

The NDAA legislation seeks to improve the quality of life for the men and women of our armed forces and their families and addresses the needs of our wounded, ill and injured service members. It also makes important reforms aimed at recruiting and retaining the all-volunteer force that has consistently defended our country for over four decades. And it cuts $10 billion in wasteful and duplicative spending, freeing up funds to develop and procure weapon systems of the future while also giving our troops in combat the resources they need today.

We also addressed the issue of the arbitrary spending caps in the NDAA. The Budget Control Act, which was passed in 2011, placed spending caps on the defense budget and threatens our troops with sequestration. But because this is the law of the land, we must abide by its rules until we are able to fix it. Fortunately, the members of the 112th Congress who passed the Budget Control Act recognized the importance of funding our servicemen and women, and included the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account in the Budget Control Act. NDAA includes money from this account to fully fund our armed forces.

Across the globe, military aggression and threats to our nation continue to emerge. The threats facing our country are multi-faceted, our enemies’ tactics ever-changing. New and dangerous weapons are getting into the hands of those who wish to do us harm. For these reasons, it is essential to properly equip our military men and women with the tools and support necessary to complete their missions.

The defense of our country should never be a partisan issue. Passing NDAA means that our military men and women are equipped with the tools they need to fight the enemy and defend the freedoms we too often take for granted here at home. The Senate has passed NDAA every year for the past five decades. This speaks to the importance that generations of Senate members have attached to passing the NDAA, despite ideological differences. I encourage my colleagues to continue that tradition and I hope the president will work with us. Our soldiers deserve nothing less.