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On Monday, we recognized 79 years since the horrific attacks on Pearl Harbor—a day that will live in infamy—which led the United States to join the Allied forces in what would become the deadliest war in human history. But thanks to the brave Americans who answered the call to defend freedom around the globe, this nation was able to lead the effort to defeat Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.

Today, our nation, and the world face different threats. But at all times, Americans across the globe stand ready to defend democracy and maintain world peace.

Having served over 23 years in military uniform, I am keenly aware of the sacrifices our servicemembers make every day to keep America safe and free. And now, in my position as a United States Senator, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure our men and women in uniform have the support and resources they need.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I work with Democrats and Republicans on the annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This year, I am proud that, with my efforts, this bipartisan package helps protect our troops, preserve Iowans’ tax dollars, and prolong Iowa’s role in helping maintain our national defense.

Protecting Troops

Women serve in critical roles within our nation’s military so we need to make sure our female servicemembers are properly equipped for the battlefield. Through my efforts, and that of my fellow Army combat veteran, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, this defense bill ensures female troops will have body armor that fits them properly and requires the Pentagon to regularly report to Congress their progress in getting this done.

But it’s not just body armor. We’re protecting troops in other areas as well. Through my provisions in the bill, we’re also building on my efforts to combat sexual assault in the military—specifically by empowering survivors by making military courts handling criminal sexual assault cases more professional and lowering the barriers for servicemembers to report sexual assault.

We also provide our troops with a three percent, across the board pay raise and provide additional resources to military families.

Preserving Tax Dollars

When it comes to financial waste in our federal government, folks know that I call it like I see it. As a former member of our military, I’m not proud to say it, but the Department of Defense (DOD) oftentimes is responsible for some of our most egregious and wasteful spending. So, to protect Iowa’s taxpayers, I made sure this NDAA includes a requirement that all DOD grant recipients that receive federal dollars include a price tag disclosing the cost for their projects.

The Comptroller General will also investigate the most expensive cost overruns in weapon systems and the Pentagon will tell Congress their top ten most expensive weapons to fix and maintain.

Prolonging Iowa’s Role

I’m also proud that this defense bill includes key initiatives for Iowa’s economy and our state’s role in helping maintain our national defense. The package will bolster Iowa defense manufacturing, including the latest equipment for our troops and military—like organic light-emitting-diodes (OLEDs) for military pilots—made right here in Iowa. We’re also taking the much-needed step to better-secure America’s national security supply chain from adversaries like Communist China by investing in manufacturing at home.

Included in this defense bill is something important to Iowa agriculture. The NDAA will clarify the Food Ingredient Requirements for food or beverages provided by DOD, and require the Pentagon to seek input from Iowans and subject matter experts within the food supply chain before making a final determination about food ingredients that directly impact troops.

The National Defense Authorization Act—one Congress has passed on a bipartisan basis for 60 years—is vitally important to our warfighters around the globe who are sacrificing for our freedoms and defending our nation.

While this NDAA is not perfect, the work we do on the bipartisan defense bill matters immensely to our troops. It is critical for our military men and women to be equipped for the battlefield of today and well into the future, and as a combat veteran, and mother of a West Point cadet, I will always fight to equip and support our servicemembers.

Author: Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.