Something virtually unprecedented happened in Washington last week — the president vetoed a bipartisan bill to fund our military, a bill that increases benefits for service members and provides the resources critical to their missions. As the representatives of two Army posts that are critical to the military's mission — Fort Knox and Fort Campbell — we call on our colleagues to join together in voting to override President Obama's shameless and shortsighted veto.
Turn on the news and you'll hear plenty of stories reminding us why our nation needs a strong national defense and an Army equipped to handle the unknown challenges ahead. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to be a serious threat and Syria has redoubled its concerning friendship with Russia. Quite simply, vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a national security risk with monumental implications.
The bill presented to the president was passed in a bipartisan fashion in both the House and Senate, an impressive feat in today's political environment. The NDAA has passed Congress for 53 straight years, making the veto of this bill — which had broad support — even more surprising.
President Obama vetoed this military authorization solely because he wants to increase spending on non-defense programs, the very drivers of our massive federal debt. This is not the time or place to have such a debate that places our critical defense programs in jeopardy. The priorities included in this bill are the result of extensive negotiations between both parties, both chambers, and military leaders.
The NDAA bill is responsible and essential to support the men and women in our Armed Forces. It funds the military at the level requested by President Obama. It enhances the current retirement system to offer more options to service members and issues a much-deserved pay raise to our troops. It continues efforts to combat sexual assault in the military and expands those programs to ROTC and Junior ROTC programs. Additionally, it authorizes necessary security assistance for Iraqi forces who are currently fighting ISIL.
The president's veto is not only wrong, but it puts our troops in jeopardy. Our troops are not pawns to be used for political games.
Serving proud military communities, we know what a critical role our military men and women play in our Commonwealth. It is our duty to be strong advocates for the military installations, our soldiers, and their families. We cannot and will not sit idly by while the president grandstands over issues that are unrelated to military readiness.
From Fort Knox's Human Resources Command, world class training facilities and strong leadership on energy efficiency, to Fort Campbell's expeditionary Air Assault capability that is unmatched across the Army and prized location making it a premier force projection platform for the 101st Airborne Division and other specialized units including the elite 5th Special Forces Group and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, it is evident that both Fort Knox and Fort Campbell are unique and impressive facilities. The important roles of these installations spill over into our communities and touch the lives of so many Kentuckians. If the members of our military and their support staff cannot go to work each day knowing they will have the resources they need to be successful and that their families will see the benefits they have earned, our communities suffer.
The U.S. Army used to ask young Americans if they were "Army Strong." Kentucky is Army Strong. Are you, Mr. President?