By Congressman Tom Cole
Without question, we live in a dangerous world with threats that only continue to grow or become more apparent each and every day. Given the nature of the times in which we live, it is critical that our country maintain the capability to confront the mounting dangers to our security and those to our friends and allies.
As our military service members, veterans, military retirees and their families know all too well, the safety and sense of security felt by most Americans doesn’t come without a price. It requires a robust military, equipped with the best, most up-to-date resources to answer threats both at home and abroad. Whether it’s a terrorist group in the Middle East threatening our allies in the region or Russia bullying our friends in Ukraine, there are a slew of very real challenges that must be answered with American resolve. Our military is the most obvious face of that resolve.
In order to provide for a strong defense, each year lawmakers act responsibly by considering the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is a policy bill that authorizes funding for our nation’s military personnel, readiness and operations. Passage of NDAA ensures that the military is trained and equipped with everything it needs to defend the United States and our international interests. Earlier this spring, both chambers of Congress considered and passed versions of NDAA and then went to work over the summer in reconciling any differences through a conference report.
Recently, that report came back to the House and Senate, and it passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers. While I am disappointed that several valuable provisions aimed at helping military retirees and families were not carried over from the House version, I still believe that passage of the compromise agreement was the most responsible thing to do for our national security, and I was proud to support it.
Unlike many issues in government, providing for our nation’s military is rarely one of partisan dispute and rightly so. Unfortunately, by threatening to veto NDAA, the president has signaled that he intends to make it one in order to fulfill his own demands. Due to his dislike of the process by which Congress fulfilled his budget request and due to language that prevents immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay and limits transfer of terror suspects out of the prison, President Obama has decided to foolishly quibble rather than compromise. It’s important to note that the inclusion of the language related to Guantanamo is the same as the president has signed into law every year of his presidency.
The president’s reasoning for veto is extremely short sighted given the valuable provisions that are included in the NDAA conference report. First and foremost, the policy laid out in NDAA keeps our Armed Forces operational and able to respond to threats wherever and whenever they arise. It also recommends a boost in funds for combating very real terrorist threats like ISIL (also called ISIS) through an increase to Overseas Contingency Operations funding. Further and well deserved, it includes a pay raise for our hardworking, dedicated service members who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the entire United States. In addition, the bill includes a ban on torture tactics and allows for $50 million in military aid to Ukraine to combat against aggression from pro-Russian rebels.
I am deeply disappointed that the president has threatened to veto this important piece of legislation. Not only does NDAA reflect bipartisan agreement to prioritizing and arming our troops but it fulfills the president’s own budget request. It is shameful that the president has opted to put our military at risk rather than protect those who uphold and ensure our national security.