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Opinion | Fighting for those who fight for us

When we go to bed at night, whether we think about it or not, we are safe knowing that our servicemen and women stand at the ready throughout the world; ready to defend our nation, our values, and us here at home.

But, without the appropriate funding, our military does not have the necessary equipment and resources to get the job done.

I am proud to report, thanks to the steadfast work and advocacy of us defense hawks in Congress, we have passed a bill fully funding our nation’s military on time for the first time since 2008.

Not only this, but as of October 1st, roughly 75 percent of our government is funded for the coming year. We can truly say that as we move toward the end of the year, we are both better off now and stronger for the future.

On Friday, President Trump signed into law the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense and Labor-HHS-Education funding bill, which authorizes a record $716 billion to go toward our fighting men and women in the upcoming year.

Part of this defense funding package includes 93 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 142 Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, and 13 Navy ships. Additionally, our troops will see the largest pay increase in nearly a decade.

And, we have managed to do all of this without a temporary continuing resolution. This means that our nation’s military will have the funding certainty they have repeatedly asked for.

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So how will this impact Alabama?

The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass will benefit from the new Apache and Black Hawk helicopters as they continue to train our men and women in combat flight and air superiority to support of our ground troops.

Some of the 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as several other aircraft under the bill, will likely see service at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. This base is home to Air University, a division of the Air Education and Training Command, and these new planes will potentially serve with and in support of the 908th Airlift Wing and 187th Fighter Wing stationed there.

The bill sets aside critical funding for missiles to be built and utilized by the team at Redstone Arsenal in north Alabama as they carry out critical Army and Missile Defense Agency programs.

And closer to home here in Southwest Alabama, our very own Austal USA in Mobile will benefit from funding for three new Littoral Combat Ships and one new Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, ensuring continued work for the 4,000 men and women who work at the shipyard. These ships represent the next step as we strive for a 355-ship Navy fleet and an even stronger and more capable fighting force.

On top of all these projects and plans, perhaps even more important is making sure the people who operate these systems are responsibly taken care of into the future. That is why we have made sure to include a pay raise in this year’s funding. For those who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, it only makes sense to pay them what they deserve. No price can ever be put on the sacrifices they make.

As your representative in Congress, I am constantly fighting for the betterment of all Alabamians and all Americans. The members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marines who live and work in Alabama should rest easy knowing that I will always fight for those who fight for us.

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Bradley Byrne is the president and CEO of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce and a former Republican congressman who represented Alabama's 1st Congressional District.

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