Weekly column: Supporting our armed forces

The National Defense Exercise (FY) 2022 Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a number of provisions designed to provide resources to assist the women and men in Idaho uniform in carrying out their missions with strength and efficiency. This includes funding for Mountain Home Air Force Base, Gowen Field, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). It provides essential tools needed to strengthen U.S. national security, both at home and abroad. Along with my fellow U.S. Senator from Idaho Jim Risch, I was proud to support the NDAA for fiscal year 2022 when the U.S. Senate passed this important legislation by 88 to 11 votes before it was enacted.

The NDAA for fiscal year 2022 includes specific funds authorized for various projects important to the state of Idaho, including:

  • Cleanup and Waste Disposal at Idaho National Laboratory;
  • A water treatment plant at the Mountain Home Air Force Base to ensure a stable and reliable source of water at the base;
  • A unique National Guard preparation center in Jérôme;
  • A new medical training center at Gowen Field;
  • Continuous composite 3D printing projects, in which the Idaho industry plays a key role;
  • A sentiment in Congress that the US government should continue to adequately compensate and recognize those affected by Cold War-era surface nuclear testing, often referred to as “downwinds.”

The “downwinds” provisions are part of ongoing efforts to expand and expand eligibility for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to those in Idaho and other states who have suffered from cancer related to fallout from the trials. nuclear weapons surfaced during the Cold War era of the 1950s and 1960s. I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico) to expand the current RECA program to compensate all deserving victims “downwinder” and continue to work for the enactment of this legislation to achieve it.

The NDAA for FY2022 increases authorized defense funding, offers U.S. troops a pay rise, and prioritizes preparing military families by including spousal employment support. Specifically, the law supports a 2.7% salary increase for military service members and the civilian workforce of the US Department of Defense. It expands military recruitment and retention tools and provides for improvements to military family housing. It finances new ships, submarines, projection forces, hypersonics, space systems and other important technologies. Republicans have also been successful in preventing progressive lawmakers from using the NDAA to advance their far-left social agenda and continue their efforts for a state in Washington.

The law helps address ongoing foreign concerns. It contains provisions to help deal with China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific region; strengthens the accountability of Afghanistan; demands assessments of sanctions against Iran; extends its support to the efforts to combat drugs and transnational crime of American law enforcement agencies; and more.

Ensuring our national defense is one of the most critical tasks of Congress defined in our Constitution. The enactment of the NDAA for fiscal 2022 is a step forward in realizing this important responsibility, as I continue to advocate for important provisions for Idaho and our country’s defense and federal policy that honors the enormous contributions of the United States military and military families to our security and the protection of our freedoms.

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