Defense Bill Bolsters Military and Cares for Troops

The Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 5122, is a good bill that covers numerous critical national security issues. I believe we have crafted a robust plan that will improve our military's capabilities to accomplish the full range of diverse 21st century missions, minimize risks associated with such challenges, and effectively engage in operations, when necessary, as far from American shores as possible.

This year, taking care of our troops remains Congress's top priority - as is evident in the number and nature of military personnel improvements. H.R. 5122 provides a 2.7 percent across-the-board pay raise, which would decrease the gap between military and private sector pay to about 4 percent. It also completes the transition to full TRICARE health program coverage for selected reserve personnel and zeroes out the co-pay for service members and dependents on prescription drugs from mail-order pharmacies.

Support for our service members is not just evident in medical and other benefits. To improve force protection against the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that have proven so dangerous in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have launched an initiative to take back the roads. This initiative includes $109.7 million for jamming devices that will prevent the radio-initiation of IEDs and $100 million for manned persistent surveillance aircraft to patrol road segments and other areas where IED activity is greatest.

The defense bill also builds capacity and capability in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance area to meet all warfighting requirements. In particular, the Defense Department could usefully deploy persistent surveillance platforms for operations ranging from combat and counterterrorism scenarios to stability and humanitarian operations and domestic crises.