US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Strengthening our Armed Forces

Strengthening our Armed Forces
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

As it has for the past 56 years, the Senate again passed bipartisan legislation to provide for the defense of our nation. The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is one of the most important pieces of legislation to pass out of Congress each year, as it provides our armed forces with the tools to successfully complete their missions and keep us safe. This year’s NDAA includes provisions that will rebuild our military, at a time when it is the smallest it has been since World War II.

This year’s NDAA takes important steps to reinvest in our military capabilities and allows us to appropriately address the readiness shortfalls we’re facing. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that he was “shocked” by the decline in U.S. military readiness. The size of our armed forces has shrunk to levels that raise our risk of not being able to deter adversaries or, with deterrence having failed, defeat them in combat. At a time of increased global uncertainty and unrest, it is critical that our men and women in uniform are in the best position possible to defend our great nation.

To better support our troops, this year’s NDAA authorizes a 2.1 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the armed forces. Since our military is made up completely of volunteers, we are hopeful that this will incentivize our service members to remain in our armed forces. It will make sure our troops and their families – who sacrifice so much to keep us safe – are adequately compensated for their service.

I was pleased that this year’s NDAA contains 13 provisions I offered, including a bill to help the families of wounded warriors. Unfortunately, in many cases, wounded warriors require around-the-clock care long after their service to our country. It oftentimes falls on family members to act as caregivers. My measure that was included in the NDAA would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs caregiver program be added to the list of statutorily-mandated counseling items for military members transitioning into civilian life.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m proud of Congress’s bipartisan tradition of passing the NDAA each year. We put the defense of our nation, our troops and their families before the politics of the day. I’m hopeful that we can do that more often in the weeks and months to come as we try to tackle other important issues, like tax reform and addressing our national debt. It’s clear that national defense remains a top priority for Congress, and this year’s NDAA shows our troops that they have our full support. I’m honored to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and to play a role in making life better for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America.

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