By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, June 15, 2016, the US Senate passed the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R) and Richard Shelby (R) voted for the final bill which was adopted by a vote of 85 to 13.
Sen. Sessions said in a statement, “Yesterday, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act. I supported its passage and worked to ensure it fills our nation’s needs and our nation’s security.” “From the lack of a comprehensive, coherent, bipartisan strategy to deal with Islamic terrorists, to the purpose for the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, to policies about who is eligible for combat, the current Administration continues to make illogical choices for ideological and political reasons that are counter to common sense.”
Sen. Shelby said, “Today, the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included an amendment that will allow the United States Air Force to continue to use the RD-180 rocket engine for critical national security launches until a domestic alternative is available. The inclusion of this amendment in the NDAA is a significant victory for national security because the assets that we send into space on rockets powered by the RD-180 are essential to our military’s ability to understand what is happening around the world.”
Sen. Sessions said, “While this bill is not perfect, I supported it because it provides needed resources for our national defense, for our service men and women fighting overseas, and for Alabama’s military assets that are so crucial to our national defense. The bill authorizes funding for cyber capabilities, missile defense, land vehicle modifications and repairs, helicopter and aircraft procurement, shipbuilding, and many other elements important to our nation’s and Alabama’s military infrastructure. I also worked to include language in the bill that ensures there will not be a capability gap in launching our national security payloads. We must have a sufficient number of existing RD-180 engines until we can develop a domestic alternative to them.”
Sen. Shelby said, “While we can all agree that the US should not be dependent upon any foreign power, especially in the national security arena, I am pleased that the Senate adopted this common-sense proposal that removed the dangerous restriction on the use of the RD-180 before an American-made rocket engine is developed. I will continue to advocate for policies that protect our men and women in uniform and ensure healthy competition for taxpayers.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has been demanding that the US military only use rockets with American built rocket engines. This would benefit SpaceX, which has facilities in western states including Arizona. It would shut the United Launch Alliance (ULA) getting defense launch contracts down, ULA and its parent companies of Lockheed Martin and Boeing have facilities in Alabama. ULA is working on getting a rocket engine plant up and running. Sens. Shelby and Sessions have opposed the McCain amendment.
Sen. Sessions concluded, “For this defense bill to become law, the Senate must go to conference with the House of Representatives and get the President’s signature. As our country faces increased threats abroad and at home, I hope this legislation can be improved and made final. I continue to work to make sure Alabama’s contributions to our national defense are properly recognized and protected, and that our men and women overseas have the resources, support and policies in place that will allow them to succeed.”
One controversial component of the Senate version of the NDAA is a section requiring women to register for the draft when they turn 18. Historically the US government has required that families offer up their sons in America’s larger wars. This new requirement could also require that families provide their daughters as well.
The United States has not actually had a draft since the Vietnam War.