Chairman Womack FY 2019 NDAA Conference Committee Pass-the-Gavel Remarks

As prepared for delivery during today’s meeting: 

One of Congress’s most fundamental duties is to ‘provide for the common defense’ of our nation, and I am honored to represent House Budget in the conference committee negotiations to fulfill this essential responsibility.

As a 30-year veteran of the Arkansas Army Guard, serving as an NDAA conferee has personal meaning to me. I have served next to the men and women who rely on the annual enactment of the defense authorization bill, and it is humbling to advocate for its passage on their behalf.

The National Defense Authorization Act impacts practically every congressional committee, including Budget. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, we have supported levels of funding consistent with the priorities set in this legislation. As a member of this conference, I will continue to advocate for these priorities, especially those within the areas of the Budget Committee’s jurisdiction and responsibilities.

Both the House- and Senate-passed versions of the bipartisan NDAA focus on restoring readiness, increasing capability, and reforming the Pentagon. In the face of proliferating threats at home and abroad, we must prioritize better preparing our country and our brave defenders.

That must be done in a number of ways, including investing in training, recruitment, and retention; providing our troops with a much-deserved pay raise; and properly equipping our servicemembers for their futures.

We have a duty to ensure our men and women in uniform can access necessary resources to successfully return to civilian life when they are finished bravely defending our nation. And I am particularly pleased to see the inclusion of language in the House’s version of the bill that expands tuition assistance to allow soldiers who are unable to attend a four-year college to pursue different licenses, certifications, and credentials through the TA program.

As we move forward in these negotiations to strengthen and invest in our military, I am confident that we can guarantee those who go willingly into harm’s way are equipped and ready to face each mission and defeat every enemy to protect America’s freedom.

I want to thank Chairman Thornberry, Chairman McCain, Senator Inhofe, and Ranking Members Smith and Reed for leading this important effort and for their unyielding support for our defenders. I am honored by the opportunity to work with them to fulfill our duty to our nation and our warfighters.