U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) this week discussed the importance of passing the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that would ensure that our men and women in uniform will be equipped to meet 21st-century threats, including those posed by major powers. Thune also discussed the positive news that continues to be announced as a result of tax reform.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, when we took up tax reform, we had one goal: make life better for hardworking Americans.
“And that involved a couple of things.
“For starters, it involved putting more money in Americans’ pockets, right away, by cutting their taxes.
“And Americans are already seeing the tax relief we passed in their paychecks.
“But we knew that tax cuts, as helpful as they are, weren’t enough.
“We wanted to make sure that we created the kind of economy that would give American workers access to the jobs, wages, and opportunities that would set them up for security and prosperity for the long term.
“And since jobs and opportunities are created by businesses, that meant reforming our tax code to improve the playing field for businesses so that they could improve the playing field for workers.
“And that’s what we did.
“And I’m proud to report that it’s working.
“Since tax reform was passed, business after business has announced good news for workers.
“And better benefits, including increased retirement benefits, new and better education benefits, and enhanced parental leave benefits.
“A recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers reported that 77 percent of manufacturers plan to increase hiring as a result of tax reform.
“72 percent plan to increase wages or benefits.
“And 86 percent report they plan to increase investments – which means new jobs and opportunities for workers.
“Meanwhile, a recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business reports that 75 percent of small business owners think that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will have a positive effect on their businesses.
“And the number of small businesses increasing wages recently hit a record high of 35 percent.
“In April, for the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the data, the number of job openings outnumbered the number of job seekers.
“Meanwhile, in May, unemployment dropped to its lowest level in 18 years.
“And wage growth increased at the fastest pace since July 2009.
“In other words, it’s a good day for American workers.
“Mr. President, there’s nothing better than seeing opportunities improve for hardworking Americans.
“I’m proud of the benefits the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is delivering for American workers.
“And I look forward to seeing this law produce even more benefits for workers in the future.
“Mr. President, if there’s one thing we tend to automatically rely on, it’s the strength of our military.
“We’re accustomed to having the best fighting force in the world and assuming we can meet every threat.
“But military strength doesn’t just spring up automatically.
“It has to be developed.
“And once developed, it has to be maintained.
“But in recent years, we haven’t met this responsibility.
“While we have the very finest soldiers in the world, they don’t always have all the tools they need to defend our nation.
“Budgetary impasses, paired with increased operational demands, have left our armed forces with manpower deficits and delayed the acquisition of 21st century weapons and equipment.
“Meanwhile, other major powers hostile to the United States have been building up their militaries.
“And as a result, Mr. President, our military advantage has been steadily eroding.
“In a 1793 address to Congress, President George Washington said:
“‘There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.’
“Or as Ronald Reagan put it, ‘Well, to those who think strength provokes conflict, Will Rogers had his own answer. He said of the world heavyweight champion of his day: ‘I've never seen anyone insult Jack Dempsey.’’
“Mr. President, there is no better way to secure peace than to make sure the U.S. military is the strongest, best-equipped, most capable fighting force in the world.
“If we want to protect our nation and promote peace around the world, it is imperative that we rebuild our military.
“Since President Trump’s election, Republicans have been working to reverse the underfunding of our military and restore our nation’s fighting force.
“In March of this year, we arrived at a budget agreement that contained the largest year-to-year increase in defense spending in 15 years.
“The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which we’re considering this week, is the next step in rebuilding our military.
“This bill invests in research and modernization to ensure that our men and women in uniform will be equipped to meet 21st century threats, including those posed by major powers.
“It reforms the outdated officer personnel management system to improve career flexibility and merit-based advancement.
“It makes reforms to the civilian leadership structure at the Department of Defense to make it more agile, especially for hiring technical talent.
“It implements measures to deter additional aggression from Russia and China, two of the biggest threats to the security and stability of the world in the 21st century.
“And it provides a 2.6 percent pay increase for our men and women in uniform – the largest pay increase for our service members in nearly 10 years.
“I have offered a number of amendments to further the bill’s mission, including one to expedite the backlog of foreign military sales.
“This will support the administration’s efforts to balance trade deficits, support domestic industry, and permit America’s security partners to make greater investments in their own capabilities.
“I am also working on an amendment to allow the Air Force to incorporate the B-21 bomber when determining criteria for training airspace requirements.
“This will build off a report I secured in last year’s NDAA on how to optimize training airspaces.
“My amendment will enable the Air Force to formally incorporate this future aircraft into its planning.
“I know the bill managers have a host of amendments before them, and I am hopeful the Senate can come to an agreement and include many of them.
“Mr. President, if we want our nation to be secure, if we want to promote peace and stability around the world, then we need to ensure that our military is the strongest, best-equipped fighting force in the world.
“This year’s National Defense Authorization Act will help our military regain its competitive edge and equip our men and women in uniform with the tools they need to meet and defeat the threats of the 21st century.
“I’m grateful to Senator Inhofe for his leadership, and to Senator McCain, who can’t be with us here today but whose tireless work is reflected throughout this bill.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation this week and ultimately get this bill to the president.”