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Bipartisan Budget Agreement Will Provide Resources Necessary To Rebuild Our Military

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

"This is a bill for brave Americans serving our country, including the many servicemembers based in my home state of Kentucky." 

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the bipartisan funding agreement reached by Congressional leaders and the need to provide the necessary resources for our military:

"This Congress and this president have delivered an historic series of achievements for the American people. We took an axe to the red tape holding back our economy. We used the Congressional Review Act a record 15 times to pave the way for job creation.

“After years of broken promises to our veterans, we delivered VA reform legislation to begin giving our heroes the more accessible care, greater choice, and workforce training they deserve. We confirmed outstanding judges to the federal bench. We advanced efforts to address the opioid crisis. And of course, we passed the most significant tax overhaul in a generation. Already, tax reform is increasing take-home pay for American workers. Already, businesses are investing more, expanding more, and creating more good-paying jobs right here at home.

“Over the past year, we have built a record of successes for middle-class families and a stronger, safer country. But among all the work that still remains, one critical piece of unfinished business is now close to the finish line. If we act now, we can start rebuilding our military, and provide our troops the training and equipment they need to defend the homeland and protect the American people.

“The crisis in our military is acute.

“Just this week, headlines revealed that two-thirds of the Navy’s F/A-18 aircraft are not prepared to fly. The fleet, which must secure sea lines of communication across the globe and patrol the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea has shrunk to the smallest ship count in nearly three decades. We have become too reliant on special operations forces and radically drawn down our conventional force structure.

“This has not been lost on China or Russia. They’re improving their conventional forces and intimidating their neighbors. Our force faces a complex collection of threats and challenges, from Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea to ISIL, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates. The need for our forward presence has not diminished in the Persian Gulf, nor in the South China Sea and the wider Pacific. Neither has our responsibility to our NATO allies in Europe, or to the Republic of Korea.

“No, we have not asked our all-volunteer military to do any less for our country. They’ve just been forced to make do with less. And all these short-term funding bills have handicapped our military leaders’ ability to make long-term plans and investments.

“In December, the Navy Secretary said the inefficiencies from continuing resolutions have cost his department enough money to pay for an entire squadron of fighter planes, or two destroyers. Here’s how General Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it:The U.S. military’s competitive advantage against potential adversaries is eroding.’

“Yesterday, I announced a bipartisan budget agreement that will finally bring this to a close. The agreement will allow for the funding levels recommended by the NDAA conference report – authorization levels secured by the stalwart leadership of Chairman McCain and our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee.

“What does this mean for our men and women in uniform? It means putting a stop to the decline in combat readiness. It means knowing their weapons systems will be delivered, maintained, and kept on the cutting-edge.

“Take it from Secretary Mattis. Yesterday, he explained just what this agreement will do: It will, quote, ‘ensure our military can defend our way of life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms you and I enjoy to the next generation.’

“Our volunteer servicemembers aren’t the only Americans this agreement will help. It also builds on the progress we’ve made for veterans and military families, by providing for better care and helping cut the VA’s maintenance backlog.

“It offers reinforcements to families on the front lines of our nation’s struggle with opioid addiction and substance abuse. According to the CDC, opioid overdose deaths increased five-fold just between 1999 and 2016. On average, this epidemic takes more than 100 American lives every day. This agreement provides for new grants, prevention programs, and law enforcement initiatives to bolster existing national and state efforts.

“And the legislation secures relief for families who are still struggling to rebuild in the wake of last year’s spate of natural disasters. This provision was only made possible by tireless work from several of my colleagues. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Cornyn, to Senator Cruz’s advocacy for Texas, and to Senator Rubio -- who led on behalf of Florida and spoke up forcefully for the people of Puerto Rico -- help will soon be on the way. And the agreement also provides for new investment in our nation’s infrastructure, a shared bipartisan priority.

“I am confident that no senator on either side of the aisle believes this is a perfect bill. But I’m also confident this is our best chance to begin rebuilding our military and make progress on issues directly affecting the American people.

“This is a bill for brave Americans serving our country, including the many servicemembers based in my home state of Kentucky. They deserve the pay raise we’ve promised them and the confidence that when they leave our shores, they are combat-ready. This is a bill for our distinguished military commanders, who have sounded the alarm on sequestration more times than any of us can count.

“This is a bill for our heroes who have come home. They should be greeted by a better-funded, streamlined Veterans’ Administration that is equipped to meet their needs. This is a bill for American families who have been victimized by brutal storms or the scourge of drug addiction. They deserve the assistance this agreement secures.

“I hope each senator will carefully review this bipartisan bill and support it. We need to build on our historic year, seize this opportunity, and keep moving forward.”

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