Lawmakers press Armed Services on defense priorities at home

The House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday held its annual "Member Day," allowing House lawmakers who don't sit on the panel to voice their own concerns about military matters in own districts.

The annual tradition is a chance for House members to make the case for their own priorities to be included in the national defense authorization act (NDAA), which the Armed Services panel is slated to mark up in the weeks ahead.

The measures serves as the budget blueprint for all Defense Department efforts and programs in the coming fiscal year.

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In all, 15 House members testified before Armed Services about what provisions should be included in the defense bill.

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGraham warns of 5G security threat from China Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration MORE (R-Tenn.), whose district is home to the Army’s Fort Campbell, pushed for more money for flight training at the base. She also warned against future troop reductions that could cut the number of enlisted soldiers at the site from 26,500 to around 16,000.

“I worry about our ability to defend ourselves from threats and to project power internationally,” Blackburn told the panel.

Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungCongress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Bipartisan group introduces legislation to protect federal workers' health benefits during shutdowns Deceptions may sink plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge MORE (R-Alaska) urged his colleagues to approve, among other things, a “sense of Congress” resolution backing the Air Force’s proposals to station F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Eielson Air Force Base in his state.

“He who holds Alaska, holds the world,” Young said, adding panel members should visit the Last Frontier State’s military installations because those located in the lower U.S. really serve no purpose “other than being political.”

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google face tough questions on white nationalism | Nielsen's exit raisers cyber worries | McConnell calls net neutrality bill 'dead on arrival' | Facebook changes terms for EU data Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave YouTube shuts down comments on House hearing on white nationalism over hateful remarks MORE (R-Texas) made another push for a provision that would let service members to carry private firearms on military installations, following the 2013 mass shooting at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard facility.

“The best news we could ever get” is that something in the NDAA prevented such a shooting from taking occurring, he reasoned.

Gohmert also requested an amendment allowing chaplains to pray "in Jesus' name" at services and more benefits for victims of the Fort Hood shooting. 

Republicans Ann Wagner (Mo.) and Mike Bost (Ill.) said their colleagues should fund a $1.15 billion item on the Navy’s “unfunded priorities” list for an additional 12 F/A-18 fighter jets.

Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Reps. Crescent Hardy (R-Nev.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) said the defense blueprint should include items that help small businesses compete for Pentagon contracts.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerTop House Dem calls to launch impeachment inquiry if McGahn skips testimony Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls Hoyer defends Tlaib Holocaust remarks after criticism from GOP MORE (D-Ore.) asked for more emergency visas for individuals who served as translators for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to consider his Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, which would cut $100 billion from country’s nuclear weapons budget over the next decade.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) requested language requiring any commercial aircraft that participate in DOD’s civil air reserve fleet --- which helps transport troops around the globe -- to have reinforced barriers on cockpit doors that might help prevent a terrorist hijacking. 

Fitzpatrick brought the widow of the pilot whose flight crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. He said Congress must fill the “obvious hole in out anti-terror measures.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said he wasn’t sure the barriers idea was “really our issue to solve.”

He predicted the committee would reach a deal on a few controversial amendments when it convenes for its marathon markup session on April 29 and when the measure reaches the floor in early May.

“And if there’s not any, somebody will find some,” Thornberry predicted.

He said the Senate Armed Services Committee would be “shortly on our heels” with its version of the NDAA.

This story was updated at 2:36 p.m.