We live in an increasingly dangerous world that requires bold American leadership. Our nation’s most effective tool for diplomacy has always been our resolute military serving as a deterrence. However, in recent years, we have witnessed our military readiness and capabilities decline beyond a state of alarm. The American people have given Republicans the opportunity to lead in Congress, with a promise that we would improve and restore the military prowess of the United States.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Fiscal Year 2018 fulfills this commitment to strengthen and modernize our military. This critical legislation provides nearly $700 billion to fully fund our military, giving our service members the tools they need to protect and defend the American people. These exceptional men and women risk their lives daily to secure the freedoms we enjoy, and we must ensure they are adequately paid for their bravery and sacrifices. This year’s NDAA provides them with the most substantial pay raise they’ve received in eight years.
This legislation also ensures our troops prosper at home as well as abroad by taking care of their families. Specifically, the NDAA takes care of the over 60,000 surviving military spouses by permanently preserving the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) payments. Military families make incredible sacrifices for our nation, and this is a small way to show our gratitude and appreciation for their sacrifice.
We are also in desperate need of updating and modernizing our military. Earlier this year, reports said that nearly two-thirds of our Navy strike fighter jets are unable to fly. In this increasingly dangerous world, it would be unimaginable and unacceptable to allow our crumbling military infrastructure to risk the life of an American citizen. Funding in the bill will be used to rebuild and replace aging assets and infrastructure, including $1.9 billion for facility maintenance from hospitals to airplane hangars, and $4.4 billion to strengthen our missile defenses. It will also provide an increased naval presence, better-equipped ground forces, and improved aviation readiness. Our naval presence around the globe helps to ensure that the foreign policy priorities of the United States are carried out. North Korea’s continued nuclear adventurism underlines the importance of us having reliable and effective missile defense systems.
While providing adaquate funding for our troops on the ground is critical, we must recognize that war is not always being fought on a physical battlefield anymore. In the 21st Century, warfare has evolved into the cyber field and we must properly train a workforce to address these needs. To achieve this, the NDAA also includes my bill, the Cyber Scholarship Opportunities Act, which will aid in the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals by expanding and enhancing the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. SFS is a federal ROTC-style scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing cybersecurity careers. The program pays for our service members’ education in exchange for service in a public sector cybersecurity job upon graduation.
To be clear, the CyberCorps program is a critical investment in the future of our national security by creating a pipeline for the best cybersecurity minds to serve our nation. My bill will provide scholarships and job security for veterans enabling them to continue to serve in defense of our country long after they leave official military service. The desire of our brave men and women to serve lasts far beyond the uniform, and we should always do everything we can to provide them with the tools and resources they need to rejoin society and continue their fight.
Across the board, this year’s NDAA will enhance our capabilities to ensure we effectively deter and respond when necessary to any threat that poses a danger to the safety and security of the American people and our allies. For eight years we watched the military get stripped of proper equipment while being crippled by failing infrastructure. Worst of all, we saw our troops’ selfless sacrifice go unrewarded. With the passage of this legislation, we are fulfilling our promise to the American people by restoring our military and rewarding our troops. We are also sending a message to the world that the United States is leading once again.
Congressman Michael McCaul represents the 10th District of Texas. Currently, he serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.