It is because of the sacrifices made by the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States that we remain the greatest country in the world. It’s important that our troops have all the tools and resources they need to successfully carry out their missions. That is why each year, we put aside political differences to pass a strong National Defense Authorization Act — or NDAA. The Senate recently voted to pass the NDAA, which included a number of provisions I offered to help our troops and strengthen South Dakota’s role in national defense. While I was with Jean as she received treatment for cancer during the final vote on the bill, we put in many months of work on numerous pieces of legislation that were ultimately included in the Senate-passed NDAA.

Since I was sworn in to the Senate, I have served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s an honor to be able to focus on legislation that not only improves our nation’s defense, but also makes life better for the men and women — and their families — who serve. The NDAA we passed this year continues the process of rebuilding our military, restoring our combat advantage and building a more efficient, effective force. We also passed provisions to support our all-volunteer force and their families. This includes providing them with the largest pay raise in a decade. The NDAA also corrects serious deficiencies in privatized military housing, so service members and their families can live in a safe, comfortable home.

Earlier this year, we were excited to share the news that Ellsworth Air Force Base in Box Elder will be the first base to receive the next-generation stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider. The NDAA we passed requires the Air Force to provide a briefing to Congress on the bomber force, including the legacy bombers, the acquisition of the B-21 and the integration of the B-21 to the bomber force. This will help us stay updated on the latest information regarding the future of Ellsworth, which is so important to our state. I particularly look forward to the Air Force’s plan to sustain the B-1B bomber force stationed at Ellsworth.

Since 2017, I have served as chairman of the Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee. Our subcommittee has spent a great deal of time working to protect Americans from a crippling cyber-attack in the newest warfare domain: cyberspace. In last year’s NDAA, we secured legislation that allows the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct more offensive cyber operations necessary to help keep Americans safe. In this year’s bill, we built upon those successes by including provisions that will greatly strengthen our ability to defend against cyber-attacks as well as conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations. This included a provision requiring the DOD to create a framework for the cybersecurity of the defense industrial base — particularly regarding defense contractors and subcontractors who are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Another provision requires DOD to develop readiness metrics for the cyber force and a requirement to give a quarterly readiness briefing, based upon these metrics, to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

South Dakotans may be interested in another provision that I was able to get included in the NDAA: we require DOD to establish a university consortia to advise and assist DOD on cybersecurity. The consortia will provide a single portal for DOD to access the expertise of universities designated as National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security Centers of Academic Excellence. Dakota State University in Madison is one of these universities, and has been at the forefront of cyber-related research for years. The consortia will further strengthen the bond between schools like Dakota State University and the DOD, as well as help DOD solve complex cybersecurity problems and develop cybersecurity training.

I thank Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) for their leadership throughout this year’s NDAA debate. They listened to members from both sides of the aisle and identified legislation we could all agree upon for the good of our armed forces. I look forward to the House-Senate NDAA conference committee finishing its work as soon as possible so President Trump can continue the long tradition of signing a strong, bipartisan NDAA into law. Our troops make incredible sacrifices on behalf of our country, and Congress needs to provide them all the tools to do their job. NDAA 2020 helps fulfill that obligation.

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