By Congressman Steve Knight
In the early hours of the morning on April 30, after a full day of debate and deliberation, the House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016. This bill authorizes the budgets and expenditures for national defense programs in the upcoming fiscal year, and is essential to keep Americans safe at home and overseas. I am proud of the legislation we passed out of committee because it not only gives our men and women in uniform the resources they need to protect our country, but it also does a great deal to benefit the communities I represent.
This year’s NDAA is very supportive of our troops, something I have stressed every step of the way. It provides a 2.3% pay raise for active duty service members and creates portable 401k-like retirement plan for all members to ensure that our men and women in uniform can provide for themselves and their families far into the future. Additionally, it retains a housing allowance for troops who live off base, maintains funding for commissaries, and increases financial literacy training so that service members can maintain a good quality of life that they desire and deserve. It also aims to improve collaboration between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to better support service members’ transition to civilian life so that as veterans they are able to receive the care they deserve after service.
The NDAA is also helpful for small businesses. It includes several provisions that would reform the defense procurement and contracting process at the Department of Defense so that smaller companies can be more competitive. One provision happens to be a bill I authored, H.R. 1390- the Small Business Joint Venturing Act. It would give small businesses a better chance to compete for federal contracts by allowing them to form joint ventures and work together while maintaining their small business status. Currently in the 25th District, we have around 450 small firms actively seeking federal government contracts and this bill will help them to compete with larger firms. I am excited that our national defense policy will be mindful of helping small businesses and strengthening our industrial base.
This Act also has several pieces that are helpful for our communities. Most notably, it would help revitalize our region’s legendary aerospace manufacturing sector by creating jobs for the numerous local companies in our district that build aircraft components for many platforms. For example, it would add 57 new F-35 aircraft and a new MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System, both of which are built in part in the Santa Clarita Valley and the Antelope Valley. It also supports the upcoming Long Range Strike Bomber that will have a substantial economic impact on our region. All of these provisions will help our communities, our economy, and our military.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 will be considered on the House floor this week. I hope that my colleagues in Congress recognize its importance to our service members, small businesses, and everyday citizens. Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution lists 17 separate powers that are granted to the Congress, six of which deal exclusively with the national defense. Without a strong national defense, our way of life becomes threatened and our enemies become emboldened. That is why I believe this Defense Authorization bill provides for our military and ensures our strength in the world.
Representative Steve Knight, (R-Antelope Valley), represents California's 25th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives, which includes the communities throughout the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys.