The defense spending bill approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday night included some provisions by members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.
The most important one for the state was authored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, to prevent the potential furlough next year of thousands of Oklahoma civilians who work for the Defense Department.
The House also approved an amendment co-authored by Reps. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, aimed at preventing the military from appointing atheist or “humanist” chaplains.
And it includes an amendment by Bridenstine to add $10 million for the National Guard State Partnership Program.
Bridenstine said the partnership program involves 60 partnerships in which nearly every U.S. state and territory has a partner country; it directly supports the Oklahoma National Guard’s partnership with Azerbaijan, a country increasingly important to energy security in Europe and Israel, the congressman said.
“This amendment is about defense priorities,” he said. “The State Partnership Program supports our national security objective of building the capabilities of our allies and partners. Capable partners can share burdens, risks, and costs. The more they can do, the less we have to do.”
Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, the Adjutant General for the State of Oklahoma, said the program “has been a tremendously successful tool to help us establish mutual security cooperation objectives with the participating nations.
“In our case, the Oklahoma National Guard has a strong relationship with Azerbaijan. Since 2002, we have worked side by side with our Azerbaijani partners. For example, the SPP leverages the unique expertise the Oklahoma National Guard possesses in responding to domestic emergencies and allows us to share our practices with the Azerbaijanis. We have developed an excellent and enduring relationship with our counterparts in Azerbaijan.”
Cole, a member of the subcommittee that wrote the defense spending bill, applauded its passage by the full House.
“Not only did we support preservation of our military, but we voted to prevent needless furloughs for civilian personnel paid from the Working Capital Fund,” he said.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, said, “This legislation appropriates necessary funding for our nation’s men and women in uniform and provides for the common defense of our country. It is of utmost importance that we invest in our national security to ensure that we continue to provide the strongest Armed Forces worldwide.
“As we continue to fight a war in Afghanistan, it is crucial that we provide our Military with the tools they need to accomplish our long-term goal of fighting terrorism. I am proud this legislation appropriates the resources needed to meet this purpose.
“Additionally, this legislation prohibits funding for transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. territories. It is important that we keep dangerous terrorists in Guantanamo to ensure the safety of all American citizens.
“Lastly, I am pleased this legislation fully funds the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs to help make certain acts of sexual assault are addressed and abolished in our Military. We must not ever allow these violent acts of crime to take place.”
The Senate must still pass its own defense spending bill; then, the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled.