Washington, DC- The U.S. Senate approved S. 1390, the National Defense Authorization Act, Thursday night by a vote of 87-7. The final version of the legislation was composed of various amendments supported by Idaho Senator Jim Risch including two he authored-one providing the service secretaries flexibility to bolster levels in critical National Guard units and another calling for a report on the status of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve fleets.
"Our National Guard and Reserve troops have played a very active role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade taking a heavy toll on the equipment these brave men and women depend on. A report on the current Air National Guard and Air Force fleets will give Congress a better understanding of the upgrades and replacements we must make to be prepared for current and future missions.
"There also remains a need for specially-trained men and women to be more readily available to assist their respective units in critical areas. The authority to expand levels of these troops will provide far greater flexibility and answer a need the National Guard and Reserve communities have been voicing for years," said Risch.
Risch also co-sponsored a successful amendment requiring states to send ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days before an election and provide a 10-day grace period after Election Day, so long as the ballots are postmarked on time. The amendment was prompted by a Congressional Research Service study which found election officials never received more than 20 percent of the 441,000 ballots requested by eligible overseas voters in 2008.
A few provisions Risch did not support were included in the bill. One stripped funding for the production of an additional seven F-22 aircraft, something he characterized as essential to the continued modernization of the Air Force and supported by senior leadership of the Army and Air National Guard. Another provided drastic cuts to the Missile Defense Agency.
"While I am disappointed aircraft production and missile defense funds were cut, this is still a good bill. It provides a necessary pay raise for our troops and sufficient resources to defend our nation," said Risch.
The bill now goes to a Conference Committee with the House where a different version of the legislation already passed.