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
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
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.