This year marks the 60th consecutive year that the U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act – or NDAA. The NDAA is one of the most important pieces of legislation we pass each year, as it authorizes funding for the Department of Defense.
The bill we recently passed authorizes funding to support our armed forces and their families throughout fiscal year 2021. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of that committee’s Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I’ve been working with my colleagues on this legislation to make sure it provides the resources necessary to keep our troops safe, strengthen our national security and support military families. This is especially important as our adversaries, especially China, seek to gain strategic dominance over the United States as they grow their militaries in quality and quantity.
Of all our near-peer competitors, China is continuing to strengthen its powerful grip on its own people as well as expand its influence across the globe. This year, we’ve seen China perform an ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims, many of whom are being held against their will in concentration camps. While imposing this abuse of Uighur Muslims, the Chinese Communist Party, which governs China, has meanwhile issued a new law on Hong Kong that would strictly punish anyone who opposes the Chinese government, in effect the Chinese Communist Party. These profound violations of human rights are painted by the Party’s state-run news service in the best light possible while hiding and distorting the truth from its citizens.
On an international level, China has unlawfully claimed most of the South China Sea – a major shipping channel – as its own sovereign territory. This, despite the fact that many of our Southeast Asian allies have legitimate claims to islands and areas in the South China Sea.
We’ve recently seen an escalation of aggressive actions by China’s maritime forces against U.S. ships in the South China Sea, which are there to maintain freedom of navigation and make sure free trade can continue within this critical artery for international commerce.
This type of aggression is a prime example of why our armed forces need to remain the strongest in the world. We can fulfill that requirement by giving our armed forces all they need through the NDAA that we have passed every year for over half a century.
The fiscal year 2021 NDAA that we just passed was designed to support the National Defense Strategy. The National Defense Strategy provides clear direction for restoring our military’s competitive edge in an era of re-emerging, long-term great power competition.
As our near-peer competitors like China and Russia continue to advance their own weapon systems and strategies, we must make sure our armed forces have the tools and capabilities to deter aggression by these adversaries against the United States, our allies and partners. We never want our service men and women to go into a fair fight – U.S. troops must always have the advantage.
The B-21 Raider bombers coming to Ellsworth Air Force Base in the near future will be a critical part of maintaining that deterrent. The B-21s will play a crucial role in neutralizing China’s threat because the long-range strike bomber will put them at risk if they choose to act out.
International threats against U.S. interests will continue to grow, but we have the best military in the world. It isn’t just weapons systems that make our armed forces strong, though they are indispensable–it’s the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform. At the end of the day, the NDAA is about making sure they have everything they need to do their job, keep us safe and protect freedom. I’m glad we were able to pass this important legislation and show that, in Congress, we can work together when we share a common interest.