Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 15, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REED. Mr. President, I stand in opposition to the proposed amendment.

On August 24, 2021, the Secretary of Defense issued a legal order directive that all personnel in the U.S. forces should be vaccinated against COVID-19. At that point, it was an approved FDA pharmaceutical. It is a legally binding order.

We need a healthy and ready force to defend the United States, and I think we've forgotten where we were before the vaccine. For example, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most important aircraft carriers in our fleet, and particularly in the Pacific, was effectively put out of commission when 27 percent of her crew were infected with COVID. Hundreds were hospitalized. The carrier had to dock in Guam for 2 months. For 2 months, we did not have the striking power of an American aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

Since Secretary Austin's mandate, we have had no repeat incidents where a naval vessel had to be, essentially, taken out of service, nor in the other services have we seen anything like that.

Mandatory vaccination is not a new issue for military personnel. Servicemembers are commonly required to get 17 different vaccinations when they enter the military or when they deploy to serve overseas areas, including measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis, smallpox, and flu.

In fact, the first mandatory vaccination was ordered by General George Washington for the smallpox during the American Revolution.

The Department of Defense issued the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. It was a lawful order. The department made its expectations very clear, a personnel could take the vaccine or they could request an exemption, but if their exemption was denied and they still refused the shot, they would be discharged.

In the U.S. military, a lawful order is not a suggestion; it is a command. And for those of us who have the privilege of commanding American military personnel, that is the essence of order and discipline in the U.S. military, which distinguishes us from many other services throughout the world.

Ninety percent of our troops are vaccinated because they are putting their Nation, their fellow soldiers, and their families ahead of their personal opinions or personal desires. That is the function of the military, this unswerving dedication to Nation and to following and to protecting their fellow personnel.

What message do we send if we pass this bill? It is a very dangerous one. What we are telling soldiers is: If you disagree, don't follow the order. And then just lobby Congress. And they will come along, and they will restore your rank. They will restore your benefits. They will restore everything. So orders are just sort of a suggestion. They are not.

Let me conclude by this: This is a critical line in the U.S. oath of enlistment.

I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.

That is what we are talking about tonight. We must reject this amendment to reaffirm that oath, that commitment, that pillar of American military discipline and order.


Mr. REED. Mr. President, I have a much longer statement, but I want to briefly rise to express my support for the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. I am pleased that we are about to pass it.

First, let me acknowledge Ranking Member Inhofe, whose leadership on the Armed Services Committee and in this Chamber has been monumental.

For more than 20 years I have had the privilege of serving with him on the committee. In turn, we have been chairman and ranking member. And I am honored that this year's bill will be named the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act.

(Applause, Senators rising.)

Mr. President, I would also like to add my congratulations and thanks to the House Armed Services Chairman, Adam Smith, and Ranking Member Mike Rogers. Their partnership was absolutely invaluable to make this moment possible.


Mr. REED. Mr. President, I yield back all time. Vote on Motion to Concur


Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise to express my support for the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. I am pleased that we have just voted on a wide, bipartisan basis to approve this bill.

First, I would like to acknowledge Ranking Member Inhofe, whose leadership on the Armed Services Committee and in this Chamber has been monumental. For more than 20 years, I have had the privilege to serve with him on the Armed Services Committee, in turn each of us serving as chairman and ranking member. In honor of his well-earned retirement, I am pleased that the committee voted to name this year's bill the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act.

I would also thank my colleagues from the House Armed Services Committee, Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Rogers. Their partnership made this bill possible.

As we enact the NDAA, we must keep in mind that the United States is engaged in a long-term strategic competition with China. Beijing poses a serious potential threat to our national security, as the only country in the world capable of mounting a sustained challenge to our interests.

In addition, Russia has demonstrated its willingness to inflict violence and undermine the global order while states like Iran and North Korea continue to push the boundaries of military brinkmanship. Threats like terrorism, climate change, and pandemics remain persistent.

The interconnected nature of these problems must drive how we transform our tools of national power. The passage of the FY23 NDAA will be a critical step toward meeting these complex challenges.

Turning to the specifics of this year's defense bill. The NDAA authorizes $817 billion for the Department of Defense and $29 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. This includes a $45 billion boost to address inflation, accelerate the production of certain munitions, and increase procurement of aircraft, ships, submarines, armored vehicles, long-range artillery, and other resources needed by the services and combatant commands.

The bill contains a number of important provisions that I would like to briefly highlight.

To begin, we have to ensure the United States can out-compete, deter, and prevail against our near-peer rivals. This NDAA confronts China and Russia by increasing our investments in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the European Deterrence Initiative, and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. It also authorizes the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act of 2022, which is designed to increase our security cooperation with Taiwan.

Importantly, this year's NDAA provides a 4.6-percent pay raise for both military servicemembers and the Department of Defense civilian workforce. It also authorizes funding to ease the impacts of inflation on the force and increases the resources available to support military families.

The bill includes new support for our industrial base to produce the munitions needed to backfill our stocks, while also keeping supplies flowing to Ukraine and other European allies. Moreover, the bill authorizes $1 billion for the National Defense Stockpile to acquire rare earths and critical minerals needed to help meet the defense, industrial, and civilian needs of the United States.

America's capacity for technological innovation has long given us the strongest economy and military on earth, but this advantage is not a given; it must be nurtured and maintained. To that end, this year's NDAA authorizes significant funding increases for cutting-edge technologies like microelectronics, hypersonic weapons, and low-cost unmanned aircraft. Similarly, it increases funding to support U.S. Cyber Command's Hunt Forward Operations and artificial intelligence capabilities.

And, as we navigate threats of nuclear escalation from Russia and increasing capabilities from China, the NDAA enhances our deterrence strategy by helping to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad. It makes progress toward ensuring the security of our nuclear stockpile, delivery systems, and infrastructure; increasing capacity in missile defense; and strengthening nonproliferation programs.

This bill was originally crafted by the Armed Services Committee after a series of thoughtful hearings, discussions, and debates on both sides of the aisle. Through the committee markup process, we considered more than 443 amendments and ultimately adopted 233 of them. Senator Inhofe and I introduced this bill to the full Senate with the intent of adding more amendments on the floor. Although we were not able to come to hold debate on the floor, we were ultimately able to adopt amendments from Senators on both sides of the aisle in the final legislation, including several major authorization bills from other committees.

Over the past several weeks, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees have worked around the clock to come to an agreement on this final version. I am proud of the improvements we made throughout this process, and I was pleased to see the House vote last week in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, 350-80, to pass the bill. We have produced a strong NDAA that both parties, both Chambers, and the President will be able to sign.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the phenomenal staff who made this bill possible. There are dozens of staff across the committees and floor who worked tirelessly to bring us to this point, and we are all immensely grateful for their dedication. I will submit each of their names for the record. I want to specifically recognize the director for the Armed Services Democratic staff, Elizabeth King, and the director for the Republican staff, John Wason. They have led their staffs admirably and collaborated with bipartisanship, diligence, and skill.

I would also like to thank members of the Armed Services Committee staff: Jody Bennett, Carolyn Chuhta, Jon Clark, Jenny Davis, Jonathan Epstein, Jorie Feldman, Kevin Gates, Creighton Greene, Gary Leeling, Kirk McConnell, Maggie McNamara Cooper, Bill Monahan, Mike Noblet, John Quirk, Andy Scott, Cole Stevens, Brittany Amador, Patrick Shilo, Alison Warner, Leah Brewer, Megan Lustig, Joe Gallo, Chad Johnson, Jessica Lewis, Griffin Cannon, Brandon Kasprick, Sofia Kamali, Vannary Kong, and, once again, staff director Elizabeth King.

Let me conclude by once again thanking Ranking Member Inhofe, Chairman Smith, and Ranking Member Rogers for working thoughtfully and on a bipartisan basis to develop this important piece of legislation.

Finally, I thank my colleagues for voting in favor of this excellent bill.