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Opinion

Rick Hegdahl: Thanks for keeping our service members first

In one of the last acts of his career, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, kept the National Defense Authorization Act from being compromised by a dangerous anti-environmental rider. The NDAA, which is a must-pass bill, focuses on taking care of our military and their families by establishing a budget and expenditures for the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition to overseeing the funding for our military operations and readiness, the NDAA provides funding for the services, care and pay promised to our military personnel and their families.

This year, some members of Congress tried to attach a controversial rider to the military funding bill on the sage grouse, which is a chicken-like bird that roams the American West. The rider claimed that the sage grouse impedes our military’s defense and readiness, yet there is no evidence to support the claim that the sage grouse is a threat to the greatest military on Earth.

Playing politics with this bill would have devastating impacts on our military service members and their families. Here in Washington, we are proud to have 12 military bases within our state lines. Those bases and our state are home to thousands of military folks and their families and we are grateful to Rep. Adam Smith and Sen. Maria Cantwell for demonstrating true leadership in opposing special interests on the NDAA and putting our military first.

Our men and women in uniform fight for our nation and defend our freedoms every day. The least we can do is ensure that party politics do not stand in the way of providing for them and their families.

For years, the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee has worked hard to keep the National Defense Authorization Act a clean bill and free of ideological policy riders. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. McCain, took a clear stand in the past that these types of provisions have no place in the defense bill. In December 2016, Sen. McCain spoke out about provisions regarding the greater sage grouse, saying “It has nothing to do with defense, because the law is no Endangered Species Act can interfere with the operations and trainings at military bases. So it had no connection to NDAA.”

The great state of Washington and our military want to say thank you to Rep. Smith and Sen. Cantwell for following in Sen. McCain’s footsteps by exhibiting true bipartisanship and ensuring that the NDAA remains focused only on the military and their families and not special interests.

Rick Hegdahl is program director of the Vet Voice Foundation.


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