Senator Blackburn Highlights Her Plans for National Defense Authorization Act

November 30, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate floor to outline her vision and hopes for the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.

You can read the transcript recorded in the Congressional Records below or click here.

MRS. BLACKBURN: Mr. President, this week, as we return to DC, we are

going to resume consideration of the 2021 National Defense

Authorization Act. Around DC we call it the NDAA. And before I get into

discussing some of my priorities in this legislation, I want to

encourage each and every one of my colleagues to carefully consider why

we go through the lengthy process of drafting and reconciling this

authorization. And we do this every single year.

  The easy answer, of course, is that we have a duty to provide for our

common defense and that of our allies and partners. But every year the

media devotes most of their attention to how much money we have agreed

to spend on the tools of war--the Chinook helicopters, the Virginia-

class submarines, and the Reapers. They want to know about the flashy

hardware and end up ignoring the people who are in the driver's seat.

  Thousands of service men and women call Tennessee home, and when I

accepted the role of Senator, I took on a special responsibility to

look after and to take care of each and every one of them.

  Their decision to serve came with necessary and serious lifestyle

changes, both for themselves and for their families. Anyone who knows a

servicemember knows that their lives are not their own. They go where

they are told to go. They do the job they are told to do. They do it

without hesitation because they have accepted that serving their

country is more important than the autonomy they sacrificed when they

put on that uniform and took their oath.

  ``Sacrifice'' is the key word here because it applies not only to the

servicemember, but it also applies to their family. This is why we

spend so much time focusing on programs that make their lives as

seamless as possible.

  For example, this year, I continued work on military spouse license

portability to make it easier for spouses who wish to continue working

in their chosen field after they have changed locations, moved from one

State to another, because they were told this was going to be their new

duty station. We hope these spouses are able to continue their careers,

to be fulfilled in their jobs and responsibilities. Last year, we

established a pilot program for licensure reciprocity, and this year,

we worked to increase funding for this very important program.

  With my remaining time, I want to focus on our special operations

community, especially the 5th Special Forces Group and the 160th

Special Operations Aviation Regiment. They each call Fort Campbell

their home.

  For those who serve in these elite units, uncommon bravery is an

everyday occurrence. They go to some of the worst places on the face of

the Earth, to be surrounded by the most dangerous people alive, to do

work that no one can ever know about and at a higher occupational tempo

than any other aspect of our forces. Their operational tempo is

unbelievable. The physical, spiritual, and psychological toll of that

work and the stigma attached to it by those who do not understand its

importance cannot be overstated. It is not a unique burden, but it is

an especially heavy burden.

  U.S. Special Operations Command knows this and has made taking care

of the people behind this mission a priority. They created the

Preservation of the Force and Families Program to support these

warriors and their families, but, like any program of this nature, it

requires continuous innovation and evolution to stay effective.

  This year's Senate-passed NDAA reaffirms the importance of this

initiative to both servicemembers and their families and improves

human, psychological, spiritual, and social performance programs. It

also requires a deeper study on new opportunities for special and

incentive pay parity in order to increase retention of our valuable

special operators.

  This is only one aspect of an expansive piece of legislation, but it

provides a useful reminder that every dollar--every single taxpayer

dollar that we spend to defend the cause of freedom is gone to waste if

we ignore the unique needs of the people fighting our battles for us.

We have to put the emphasis on this human capital--on the individual,

on their family.

  This is one of those moments where it would be in everyone's best

interest and our Nation's best interest to avoid playing politics with

a very important policy--protecting these men and women in uniform,

providing for the common defense, providing the tools, the training,

and the services they need in order to be ready to deploy, in order to

take care of their families, in order to treat their wounds when they

return--to care for the whole of the soldier.

  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, delay isn't an

inconvenience when it comes to the NDAA. It is not a bump in the road.

When it comes to our Nation's defense spending, delay is dangerous. It

is dangerous for our national defense, it is dangerous for the allies

and the partners who depend on us, and it is dangerous for our troops

and their families. It is my hope that we will be able to proceed with

consideration of the final 2021 NDAA with that above all else at the

forefront of our minds.

  I yield the floor.