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National Defense Authorization Act Passes, Bill to Fund It Filibustered, Cochran, Wicker React

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Passing bills in DC is often a troubled process and Thursday’s Senate action was no different. While the National Defense Authorization Act passed the U.S. Senate 71-25, the Defense Appropriations Bill, which would fund the measures in the NDAA, was filibustered, prompting a response from Mississippi’s delegation.

“For the first time in many years, the Senate has an opportunity to debate, amend and pass individual appropriations bills, a fundamental and constitutional responsibility of the Congress.  The FY2016 Defense Appropriations Bill would provide the resources necessary to fulfill another of our obligations–protecting our country,” said Se. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), in response to the Democrat filibuster.

“I hope that those who opposed moving to this national security legislation will reevaluate their position.  We’ve passed a defense policy bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Let us now move forward in providing the actual funding needed by our military leaders and those they command.”

Cochran, who also chairs the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that initially produced the bill, guided the legislation to full committee approval on June 11 by a bipartisan vote of 27-3.  On Thursday, Cochran voted for Senate passage of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense policy.  Both defense bills are consistent with the 2016 budget resolution approved by the House and Senate earlier this year, said a news release from Cochran’s camp.

Meanwhile, Pres. Obama continued his veto threat for the NDAA, which Sen, Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has decried for several weeks.

“President Obama’s continued threat to veto the defense bill sends the wrong signal to our allies and our enemies about our nation’s commitment to a capable and strong defense.  I am also disappointed that many Senate Democrats, minutes after voting in favor of the defense authorization bill, turned around and blocked the spending bill to implement the policies they just approved,” said Wicker.

The NDAA includes several measures that would affect Mississippi, in addition to its military authorizations: 

  • Equipping U.S. Naval Forces with New Amphibious Ships: Senator Wicker included a provision to authorize $199 million in advance procurement for an additional America-class amphibious assault ship, as well as $80 million in research and development funding for the next generation of amphibious ships. The nation’s current amphibious fleet of 30 ships falls short of Global Combatant Commander requirements, which call for over 50 amphibious ships. 
  • Ensuring the Vitality of the National Guard: Included are provisions supported by Senator Wicker to maintain National Guard personnel levels and prevent additional Apache helicopters from being transferred away from the Army National Guard. Last year’s defense bill included a provision authorized by Senator Wicker and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that created a commission to study the future of the Army. This independent commission is required to make a recommendation on size and force structure to Congress by February 2016.
  • Modernizing the Army’s Air Fleet: Senator Wicker succeeded in securing a provision to authorize $187.2 million in procurement for 28 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters (LUH). These helicopters would be used to replace the Army’s legacy aviation training aircraft.
  • Preventing Military Suicide: Includes provisions based on the “Military and Veterans Mental Health Provider Assessment Act of 2015” coauthored by Senator Wicker and Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., requiring the Secretary of Defense to ensure that all primary care and mental health care providers of the Department of Defense receive evidence-based training on the recognition, assessment, and management of individuals at risk for suicide. 
  • Ensuring Religious Freedom in the Military: Senator Wicker included a provision that encouraged DOD to continue supporting service members’ rights to express sincerely held religious beliefs.

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