Over the last year and a half, our unified government has taken big steps to unleash our economy and foster growth here in the United States. Because of this work, our economy is strong today. In fact, since the enactment of our historic tax overhaul six months ago, more than one million new jobs have been created. Because of this work, businesses are growing, Americans are working, and our economy is strong.
Now, we must do the work required to ensure that our military is strong, too, especially after the damaging sequestration cuts and funding limitations put into place by the Obama Administration. As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I have been grateful to have a seat at the table as we’ve worked to properly fund our military through H.R. 6157, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 359-49.
I was proud to vote in favor of the legislation, and I spoke on the House floor to urge my colleagues to support it, too. Alabama’s Second District is home to two of our nation’s finest military installations, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, and Fort Rucker down in the Wiregrass. I am especially glad that this funding bill provides the resources to support their critical missions.
H.R. 6157 contains an overall amount of $674.6 billion in military funding. This amount covers important funding for Army Aviation programs important to Fort Rucker, including resources for four additional Lakota helicopters, 58 additional Blackhawk helicopters, and 66 additional Apache helicopters. The bill also provides support for other key Alabama programs, including additional funding for a total of three Littoral Combat Ships that are built in Mobile, resources to upgrade the Stryker Vehicle, and strong funding for missile programs, including THAAD, Hellfire, and LRASM. Also importantly, the bill allocates funding for 93 F-35 aircraft, some of which will soon be flown by the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery.
This bill is of critical importance to our national security and the missions in Alabama’s Second District. By passing this legislation, the House has kept our promise to rebuild our military and support our servicemembers. I’d like to share a few more reasons why this bill is so very important.
First, it provides a 2.6 percent pay increase to our men and women in uniform – the largest raise they have received in nine years. Our servicemembers sacrifice their own personal safety to protect us, and they deserve this pay raise.
Second, the bill allocates $34.4 billion for the Defense Health Program so troops, their families, and retirees can receive the care they need. This program includes funding for cancer research, psychological health research, and more.
Third, it addresses our military readiness problem. It is no secret that our military faced damaging cuts under the Obama Administration that have significantly hindered readiness. This bill makes investments in training, maintenance, and other military readiness programs.
Fourth, the bill upgrades our military equipment. The legislation provides more than $145 billion to upgrade and secure military equipment across all branches of the military, including replenishing our Naval fleet.
Fifth, this legislation supports counterterrorism efforts. The bill directs funding towards our military’s current operations against terrorist organizations by supporting additional personnel, facilities, and equipment. Our country still faces real and serious threats across the globe, and it is imperative that we enable the Pentagon to not only plan for today, but to be prepared for emerging threats around the world.
The bottom line is that the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense funding bill continues our efforts to rebuild our military after several years of harmful cuts and hollowing out. Now, we are making sure the military has the tools and resources it needs to rebuild. One of Congress’ most fundamental constitutional duties is to “provide for the common defense.” This important legislation fulfills that responsibility and ensures that our military not only remains the tip of the spear, but that it grows stronger and well-equipped to face whatever challenges come our way.