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William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Floor Speech

Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TIPTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment today will do exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. This bill is not going to be able to strengthen the national defense. My colleague's amendment would directly threaten the high altitude military training aviation site that is critical to the readiness of our armed services and to the national security of the U.S.

Additionally, it would make the United States even more reliant on China for critical strategic minerals.

Our goals should be to enact policies that will support readiness and a sustainable and secure supply chain for critical minerals. This amendment is in direct conflict to those goals.

My district is home to the national-level asset, the High Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, or HAATS. The life-saving training acquired at HAATS is vital to the military's success and readiness of our Nation.

My good friend from Colorado's amendment seeks to establish five wilderness areas within the HAATS training area either immediately or in the future through a new, unprecedented land designation mechanism that the sponsor is calling ``potential wilderness.''

When this legislation was debated before the committee, no one from DOD or the National Guard Bureau, let alone the Colorado National Guard, was given the chance to testify on the legislation's potential effects on readiness. Therefore, it would be completely unacceptable to include this legislation in the 2021 National Defense Authorization.

In addition, this amendment further deepens our Nation's concerning dependence on Communist China for critical minerals. The U.S. is 100 percent import reliant on 14 minerals on the critical minerals list and 75 percent import reliant on an additional 10.

This map prepared by U.S. Geological Survey shows the critical mineral deposit occurrences in Colorado. The area identified as Colorado Mineral Belt, which spans from Boulder down through Gunnison County and all the way into the Four Corners area, contains minerals on which the U.S. is import reliant.

I urge opposition to this bill and inclusion into the NDAA.

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Mr. TIPTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman, my colleague, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly oppose the amendment from my good friend from Colorado.

Like amendments that have come before this, this amendment will do the exact opposite of what we are trying to be able to accomplish here today, which is develop a bill to support and strengthen the national defense.

My colleague's amendment has the potential to threaten high-altitude military aviation training that is critical to the readiness of our armed services and to the national security interests of the U.S. Additionally, it would make the United States even more reliant on China for critical and strategic minerals.

Our goal is to be able to enact policies that support readiness and sustainable and secure supply chains for critical minerals. This amendment is in direct conflict with those goals.

High-altitude military aviation training is critical to the readiness of our armed services and to the national security of the United States.

My colleagues have stated that they want to be able to safeguard HAATS. In my conversations with DOD, it said it would look forward to DOD flight guidance with regards to how to operate under the language. And while I appreciate DOD's guidance, we all know too well that regulatory changes do not provide certainty. That is why I have submitted an amendment to codify the safe transit exception for military aircraft flying over the wilderness areas and mountain regions. Unfortunately, my friends in the majority did not rule that amendment in order, and we will not have the opportunity to be able to vote on safe transit.

We need to be focusing on the security of the United States not only in terms of critical minerals, but also making sure that our military has the appropriate tools to be able to carry out their missions safely in terms of the guidance that we are providing. This amendment does not achieve that goal. It will not help support the NDAA.

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