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Vitter’s view: Investing in Louisiana’s military

U.S. Senator David Vitter leads a town hall earlier this year.

Louisiana culture and history are something we cherish across the state. Our Military history is particularly something to be proud of, because Louisiana has always played a critical role in our nation’s defense.

We’re home to famed stories and war heroes like Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault, an Air Force pilot and the leader of the famed Flying Tigers that helped battle the Japanese in China during World War II; or Major General Andrew Jackson who led American forces to prevent a British invasion in the Battle of New Orleans that led to end of the War of 1812.

Our prominent history has helped shape some of the pride we have as Louisianians to do our part defending our country.

Louisiana has long played this critical role, and maintaining that role has remained one of my top priorities since day one in the Senate. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was able to secure key provisions for Louisiana in the Defense Department’s funding bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. These provisions will benefit our state by preserving Louisiana’s viability for national security and safeguarding in-state jobs and personal freedoms.

Many of the Louisiana focused provisions that I was able to include in the defense funding bill will protect total troop levels against the Administrations’ attempts to reduce it at a faster pace, protecting hundreds of jobs at Fort Polk as well as at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport.  This also includes maintaining over 300 jobs in the Lake Charles area for aircraft being locally remanufactured at Northrop Grumman.

The defense funding bill also ensures that the Army provides meaningful consideration to keep forces from the Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Polk, as well as the future of B-52s and the Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport. I fought to get Congress’ direct commitment to the U.S. Nuclear Triad, as well as their long term commitment to Barksdale Air Force Base, which is responsible for the majority of the Triad. Apart from the support for that mission, the NDAA also reconstitutes a Weapons Storage Area to enhance and improve Barksdale’s long-term standing.

In addition to this good news for Barksdale, we were able to get the Defense Department to elevate the Global Strike Command leadership to a four-star general position – the highest rank possible. It’s currently a three-star position. This is huge news, and is something we’ve been working to get for years. The significance of this designation may be the best news we’ve had for Barksdale in quite some time, and I’ll keep working to push this final approval for designation through Congress.

I also helped secure a program that encourages low income students, low academic performing students, and students with disabilities to set goals and achieve them through a curriculum that meets or exceed the national standards. One of my provisions in NDAA restored funding to this educational program that has positively impacted Shreveport and the surrounding community.

As the Department of Defense has continued to make budget and personnel cuts, it has remained my mission to represent the military needs of Louisiana. My approved provision ensures that funding for the National Guard and Army are not disproportionately cut. The final version of my committee’s bill included a commonsense approach that gives the Army the flexibility it needs – and the support Louisiana deserves.

On the flip side, I was able to keep some bad provisions out. The original defense bill provided a very controversial route for illegal immigrants to reach amnesty by joining the military reserves through a provision similar to the ENLIST Act. These illegal immigrants would be able to enlist ahead of legal citizens, which is completely unfair. It’s crucial that legal, American citizens maintain top priority in the enlistment process, and I was successful in removing this provision and will keep fighting to remove provisions like these.

My provisions in the defense bill lead to one major conclusion for Louisiana: investment. This bill invests the needed resources and provides the needed support and commitments for our state to build up and sustain our role in national defense. Every corner of Louisiana benefits from these provisions because it enhances and streamlines our military operations.

Maintaining Louisiana’s central, critical role in protecting our country will remain a priority. I’m extremely proud to represent a state that’s home to so many men and women who accept the call of duty and keep our nation safe.


David Vitter is a U.S. Senator for the state of Louisiana

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.