By Fred Upton and Bill Huizenga
America's military is facing grave challenges on multiple fronts. From the re-emergence of competitors like Russia and China, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, the imperative to keep the pressure on terrorist organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda, and more. Clearly, zero mistakes can be made and our military must have the tools they need to protect our citizens and our interests around the globe.
For 57 straight years presidents from both parties and congressional majorities from both parties have worked together to sign into law a defense authorization bill. In fact, the National Defense Authorization Act -- or NDAA -- is the primary way Congress meets its most important constitutional obligation: To "provide for the common defense" of our country.
And in some welcome news just this week, we joined our colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in advancing this year's NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, by a bipartisan vote of 351 to 66. This overwhelming bipartisan support is a critical step forward towards strengthening our military, keeping our country safe from threats, standing up for our men and women in uniform, and protecting taxpayer dollars.
The 2019 NDAA focuses on three important objectives.
First, we're supporting necessary increases in funding to support our troops and readiness recovery consistent with President Trump's commitment to rebuilding our military. Specifically, we authorize the Department of Defense (DOD) to begin rehabilitating and replacing worn out Army equipment, overcoming the crisis in military aviation by getting more aircraft in the air, restoring our strength at sea, and repairing and rebuilding crumbling military buildings and other infrastructure.
Second, we put an emphasis on caring for our troops and their families. Our military personnel, and their families, are our most valuable asset. This is why we're authorizing a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops -- the highest increase in nine years. It also extends special pay and bonuses for Servicemembers in high-demand fields. Additionally, we authorize increases to the size and training levels of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Naval and Air Research, and Air Guard.
Third, we increase accountability at the U.S. Pentagon. With a focus on streamlining the buying process, finding efficiencies and reducing by 25 percent the budget of certain DOD-wide activities, and requiring the Army Marketing Group to implement measures to improve the effectiveness of its advertising and marketing campaign, we can protect taxpayer dollars and ensure resources are being directed to the right places.
There is also a focus on priorities important to folks here in Michigan.
The first is report language affirming the national security importance of the Soo Locks. The Michigan Congressional Delegation stands together on the importance of the Soo Locks to our nation's military. Specifically, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and all involved in executive branch agencies, is urged to expedite necessary reviews, analysis, and approvals in order to speed the much-needed upgrades at the Soo Locks.
The second is continuing to authorize funding for a CDC study on the health impact of Per-and Plyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in water sources as well as contamination remediation at DOD sites. PFAS are useful chemicals when it comes to doing things such as putting out fires, but they can cause serious health issues if they leach into our water. Here in Michigan, elevated levels of these chemicals have been discovered in and around several current and former military installations. The Michigan Congressional Delegation has been united in making PFAS remediation at these sites a priority for DOD and will continue to do so as the legislative process moves forward.
Much work remains as we look towards the future of our military might. We will continue working in a bipartisan, bicameral matter as the NDAA moves from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate and then to President Trump's desk. As conflicts play out across the globe and terror organizations continuing spreading hate and fear, we should all be proudly standing together in support of our military, their families, and our readiness. They deserve nothing less.
-- Fred Upton represents Michigan's Sixth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, while Bill Huizenga represents Michigan's Second congressional district.