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Tuberville: National defense bill includes big wins for Alabama

“Speak softly, but carry a big stick,” was President Theodore Roosevelt’s motto when it came to our country’s security posture. America’s strong national defense protects our country, its people, and our interests and allies abroad. The strength of our armed forces is my top priority and why I wanted this job. I’ve found there is wide, bipartisan agreement in Congress that our military should wield the biggest and best stick possible.

Each year, Congress starts with a simple enough question: “how much money should we spend on our military and in which, commands, systems, and weapons?” Each year, the armed services committees in the House and Senate come up with the answer. The result is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It is one of the few pieces of legislation that moves through the House and Senate on time, with regularity.

Our military deserves that.

Negotiating the NDAA takes work and a great deal of input from Members of Congress on these committees. In my first year on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I felt privileged to represent the voices of millions of Alabamians in this process.

Alabamians know the value of a strong military, whether wearing the uniform, working for a defense contractor, living near on one of our many bases, or just supporting our brave servicemen and women. Through my work on the NDAA, I never missed an opportunity to highlight Alabama’s pivotal role in our nation’s defense.

The most important aspect of this year’s NDAA is Republicans and Democrats agreed our military needs more support. We authorized an increase in spending for the Department of Defense by 3 percent, after accounting for inflation. America can’t expect her military to keep pace with new threats in an increasingly dangerous world without the resources required to do the job.

China is rapidly advancing its larger army and navy with the clear goal of surpassing the United States as the world’s superpower. The Chinese Communist Party is well on its way and increasingly belligerent. To remain ahead, we must sharpen our competitive advantage by giving our soldiers and sailors the best and most efficient weapons. This is why I prioritized robust funding authorization for high-energy lasers and hypersonic missile development. Alabama leads the nation in many aspects of laser research and is home to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal. Continued research and development in these cutting-edge technologies will improve both our offensive and defensive capabilities.

China’s fleet now boasts more ships than the U.S. Navy. Our admirals point to our more powerful ships, but without steady, predictable funding, we will lose naval superiority. So, I fought to secure authorization for a new Guided Missile Destroyer and two Expeditionary Fast Transport vessels. The transport vessels will be built along the Gulf Coast, increasing our naval capabilities and providing a major economic benefit to Alabama at the same time.

If Alabama is the tip of the spear when it comes to the military, Huntsville is the cone of the rocket when it comes to space. From the beginning of our nation’s space exploration, Huntsville has led the way. It continues to lead and will soon be the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Private and public entities – the military, universities, and contractors – across Huntsville focus on growing space operations and cyber defense capabilities. I sought to accelerate our military’s investment in cyber and space. From new satellite systems to authorization for a Space Force reserve component within the National Guard, America’s investment in space security will be on sound footing.

The 187th Fighter Wing, positioned at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, and home of the historic Tuskegee Red Tails, plays an important role in our air defense. As the 187th transitions to the new F-35 fighter plane over the next two years, I secured authorization for funds to upgrade Dannelly’s infrastructure and facilities to support the squadron and maintenance operations.

And at Fort Rucker, the NDAA includes $6.6 million in funding to improve the dilapidated barracks – one of the U.S. Army’s top unfunded priorities.

While it may sometimes seem like the engine of military modernization is large defense contractors, small businesses lead the charge on developing innovative technologies in the military space – many of them located in Alabama. This year’s NDAA recognizes the contribution of small businesses, and I fought for authorization of a provision to start a public-private pilot program that would reward 100% employee-owned small businesses.

There’s still more work to do. The House Armed Services Committee will work on its version of the NDAA and then both Chambers have to pass the bill. Then there will be a joint conference to reconcile differences before the final version is sent to the President. But it’s my job to make sure Alabama continues to be well represented at every step along the way.

Those who wish to do the United States harm will not rest, so neither should we. But Alabamians can rest assured this year’s NDAA is a win for the United States’ national security, and for the people of Alabama.

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.