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Shuster Leads Fight Against BRAC, Helps Craft Major Defense Bill

WASHINGTON – The House passed H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 on Friday. The annual defense spending measure, which U.S. Representative Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) supported and helped craft, provides $688.3 billion for the Department of Defense and begins to address the readiness crisis facing our service members after years of budget cuts.

“The United States government’s single greatest responsibility and constitutional duty is to provide for the defense of the nation,” said Shuster. “This year’s NDAA shows Congress’s commitment to this responsibility by beginning to repair the readiness crisis facing our troops after six years of slashing the DOD’s budget at a time when our enemies and threats have been expanding.”

Recent testimony by every service branch highlighted the serious consequences of years of under-funding the military: Fewer than 50 percent of the Air Force’s planes are combat ready, the Navy and Marine Corps have just over 50 percent of the aircraft necessary for their training and operations, and only three of the Army’s 58 Brigade Combat Teams are ready to “fight tonight.” To combat this, the House-passed NDAA provides an additional $28.5 billion above the president’s request for essential readiness recovery, and $24.3 billion to enhance aviation readiness, naval presence, ground forces, facilities maintenance, and missile defense.

“It will take years for the military to fully recover from the readiness crisis caused by Obama-era cuts, but this legislation is a serious step forward to restore our country’s fighting ability and preparedness,” said Shuster.

One of the key fights in this year’s floor action was over the issue of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Some members in the House and Senate continue to call for a round of BRAC, which could be detrimental to Letterkenny Army Depot in Franklin County. In order to ensure that Letterkenny does not face the prospect of base closings, Congressman Shuster introduced an amendment included in the bill that prohibits a BRAC from taking place. After his amendment was unanimously agreed to in committee markup, proponents of BRAC in Congress attempted to strip the amendment from the bill on the House floor.

In a high-profile floor vote, Rep. Shuster led the opposition to the amendment stripping his BRAC prohibition from the bill. After a strident effort by Shuster to coordinate members in opposition to BRAC, the vote to remove the Shuster language failed, allowing the BRAC prohibition to remain, protecting Letterkenny Army Depot.

"When you close a depot or base, you can't snap your fingers and bring it back, and that leaves us vulnerable if we don't have what we need to meet new threats. The world has become more dangerous, and now is not the time to start closing bases through BRAC, a process that still hasn’t been proven to provide tangible cost savings and which Secretary of Defense Mattis still expresses uncertainty,” said Shuster.

The final bill contains another notable victory for Rep. Shuster and Letterkenny; the entire text of his legislation, H.R. 1916, the Patriot Inventory Protection Act, was included in the NDAA. This will prevent the Army from removing its inventory of Patriot GEM-T missiles, which leads to increased work for Letterkenny Army Depot, saves taxpayer money, and provides increased protection for American warfighters overseas. 

“The Patriot Inventory Protection Act is a commonsense bill that I worked to include in the base text of the NDAA,” said Shuster. “Without it, the Army could face a serious missile-defense shortfall because of a decision made during the Obama-era budget cuts. With it included, our troops will have the missile defense protection they need, and Letterkenny will continue to service the battle-proven and more cost-efficient GEM-T for the Army.”

The annual defense authorization legislation also provides troops a 2.4% pay raise, their largest in five years, institutes reforms at the DOD to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and efficiently, and increases the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval Air Reserve, and Air Guard to match expanding threats.

Congressman Shuster is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and serves on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. During his time in Congress, Representative Shuster has been a consistent, strong advocate for the men and women of Letterkenny Army Depot and a leader in the fight against rounds of BRAC.