On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses Wins for Ohio and Nation in Senate FY2021 NDAA
WASHINGTON, DC — Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) highlighted provisions in the Senate FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that are victories for both Ohio and our national security.
Senator Portman worked to secure billions of dollars in funding for Abrams Tanks, Stryker Vehicles and the Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system - all of which are produced at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima. He also fought to include tens of millions of dollars to support Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, as well as $15 million for the construction of a new Guard Readiness Center in Columbus, Ohio. He also strongly advocated for the three percent pay raise for the brave women and men of our armed forces--a benefit that is greatly deserved. And thanks to Senator Portman’s leadership as co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, the FY 2021 NDAA confirms America’s commitment to Ukraine by authorizing $250 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. Of this $250 million, $125 million will specifically set aside to provide lethal aid—support which is required to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“I’m on the floor today to talk about the annual National Defense Authorization Act to support service members and their families. This is one of the few things, actually, that the Senate usually passes and does so on a bipartisan basis and I’m hopeful we’ll do that again. It’s because Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that it is imperative that we give the men and women serving in the armed forces the resources and the support that they need to carry out their critical missions for all of us. This year, I’m pleased we’ve recognized the importance of ensuring that our troops get compensated properly for the hard work and sacrifices that they make. It has got an across the board three percent increase in it. They deserve it.
“On July 4th, as we celebrate 244 years of freedom, I think it’s appropriate that we demonstrate our support for the brave men and women in uniform whose sacrifices have ensured the liberty that we are celebrating. I’m also pleased there’s a lot in here really important to the people I represent in Ohio. At Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, which is our state’s largest single-site employer, the bill authorizes $23.5 million for important work on a new hydrant fuel system for the Defense Logistics Agency. It is going to make a big difference to our airmen and Air Force civilians at Wright-Patt, and to our troops around the world who rely on DLA for their equipment and resources.
“There’s also $35 million for enhanced energy efficiency at Wright-Patt’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, NASIC. We’re so proud to have NASIC in Ohio and we’re happy to see this additional investment in infrastructure for NASIC, and hopefully the Space Command will end up in Ohio as well. There’s also $15 million in the bill for construction of a new Guard Readiness Center in Columbus, Ohio which will serve as a staging area for the Ohio National Guard which is increasingly being called upon to respond to crises. I will have a chance to visit with our guard members next week in Ohio and I look forward to it.
“One of our bill’s other important initiatives that has a big impact on my state is authorizing $1.4 billion to upgrade and modify Abrams Tanks. It authorizes about $847 million dollars to build and upgrade the Stryker Armed Fighting Vehicles. There’s also an additional $378 million to produce 72 Stryker chassis to support the Army’s Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense Program. This is all really great news for our men and women in uniform. Why? Because they are going to get, from Lima, Ohio, the best equipment in the world to be able to protect themselves and keep the peace. These Abrams and Stryker Vehicles are the most advanced and lethal tanks and armored vehicles on the battlefield today. Of course this isn’t just a big win for our military. It’s also great win for the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, which I call the tank plant -- I always have. It’s in Lima, Ohio, and it’s the only facility in the world that can do what they do. Certainly the only facility in the United States that has the capacity and high-trained personnel capable of producing Abrams tanks and Stryker armored vehicles. It’s a strategic asset for our country and a source of employment for some truly outstanding engineers, welders, other technicians. I love going to the plant and talking about what they do. A lot of them are veterans and all of them believe that they are part of the effort.
“The Obama administration, by the way, nine years ago wanted to shutter this plant. They said we wouldn’t need tanks in the future and we should shut down the plant and shut down the line, which would have cost billions of dollars to mothball and then try to start it again. Thank goodness we didn’t do that. We fought hard against it. I recognized it was the wrong decision and fought against it every step of the way. I remember at the time some of the taxpayer groups were saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is somehow inappropriate to keep funding going when the Obama administration says it’s not necessary.’ Well, it was necessary. It was necessary then, and, boy, it’s certainly necessary now, and we saved the taxpayers a lot of money by not shutting it down. We provided enough funding to keep it open partly by bringing in foreign sales, and I helped in that to try and get other countries to use our tank plant, which they have and still do. We also reversed years of backlog maintenance recently and we ensured our workers have a safe environment in which to work. So it’s doing well now. The lines are humming. Thank goodness we kept it open.
“In 2018 I had the opportunity to be the first member of Congress to see the latest models of the Strykers. It’s called the Stryker Dragoon Vehicles. They have a 30-millimeter turret. A cannon on top of a armored vehicle. So this is a wheeled, armored vehicle with a turret on top of it. That 30-millimeter cannon replaced the normal 50-caliber machine gun. So a 50-caliber machine gun is effective in certain instances, but the 30-millimeter cannon is much more effective on many places on the battlefield, particularly in Europe given the threat that we face there. So whether it’s in eastern Europe, in the Baltic States, or being prepositioned in Germany for the possibility of having to respond, this is what our military wants, it’s what our army wants and we have got to continue to provide our soldiers with this Dragoon variant of the Stryker Vehicle so they can deter aggression from Russia and others and help keep our allies safe. This includes, by the way, Ukraine.
“Talking about Ukraine, it’s been in the headlines a lot over the last several months. I’ve been there, to Ukraine, several times. I’ve had the opportunity to be on the front lines in Ukraine, at what’s called the line of contact. Let me tell you, it’s not a cold war. It’s very much a hot war. I know here on this side of the Atlantic what is happening in Ukraine can sometimes seem like it’s a half a world away and maybe doesn’t affect us, but it’s not far away. And it does affect us. It’s very relevant. In a sense it’s where the modern battle is taking place between two very different ideologies, one of freedom and democracy and wanting to connect to the west, and that’s modern Ukraine, that’s exactly what President Zelensky and the parliament there and others want to do. And the other would be the oligarchy and the corruption of Russia, which wants to pull Ukraine back into their orbit. In Ohio we have a large and vibrant Ukraine community, particularly in Northeast Ohio, and they certainly have a vested interest in seeing that their ancestral home land can defend itself from Russian aggression as it works to align itself more with NATO and the West while promoting the platform of democracy and freedom, transparency, and free markets.
“I’ve met with President Zelensky several times and I’m encouraged by his commitment and his passion to keeping Ukraine on the right track, including fighting corruption and we have got to continue as a country to ensure that that elimination of corruption continues in Ukraine. I was pleased to see that Ukraine was very recently designated as a NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner and one day I hope to welcome them as a full member of NATO. We are passing a unanimous, I hope, consent resolution in this body with regard to this issue. We need to be sure and let Ukraine know that we support them.
“For the past four years I’ve worked to include provisions in the NDAA, that’s this defense bill we’re working on now, that helps expand military assistance to Ukraine and builds on the Ukraine Military Security Assistance Initiative. This year I was pleased that the bill again authorizes $250 million in lethal and nonlethal aid to Ukraine -- that includes, by the way, $125 million in lethal assistance, that they need. That’s an increase of $75 million from last year’s budget. So we’re doing even more to help allow Ukrainians to defend themselves.
“New this year, this bill includes my proposal to require the Departments of State and Defense to develop a new, multiyear strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity, and providing a resource plan for U.S. security assistance. I had the opportunity today to speak to General Dayton who will be nominated by the president to be the next ambassador to Ukraine. This is a guy who has done a terrific job working with the Ukrainian military to modernize their military, to ensure there is more transparency, civilian control, and be sure that they are following the model that will allow them to be successful in recruiting and in fighting against the Russian threat.
“So there’s a lot to like in the NDAA. And I’ve introduced some amendments that I hope will be included as well. I’ll continue to advocate for Ohio and for the men and women who keep us safe every day. I look forward to voting on the bill’s passage here in the Senate soon so, again, our troops who give us so much, so much of themselves just to be able to keep us safe, have the resources that they need, the best equipment, have the highest level of readiness to be able to fulfill that mission to keep the peace and to continue to secure our liberties.”