Floor and Committee Statements

“Mr. President, I rise for two purposes. Principally, to support this legislation and to thank Ranking Member Reed and Chairman McCain and the other members of the Senate for the contributions they’ve made in the reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“But in particular, I want to thank our men and women in uniform, our commander in general, our military intelligence, and our weather systems in the military for the tremendous aid they’ve had for us in Georgia, the people of Florida, the people of Alabama, the people of Texas, the people of Louisiana, and the people of Mississippi during two tragic hurricanes that have taken place during the last week.

“We think of our men and women [in uniform] every day for what they sacrifice for us to defend our country and keep us safe. Sometimes we forget all the things they do to help us when we have times of trouble. If there were ever times of trouble, Harvey in Texas and what happened in Florida with Irma, are certainly that.

“Some of those assets are based in my state of Georgia like the search and rescue mission that goes out of Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia, which has been invaluable in rescue efforts in the state of Florida, so as I come to support the NDAA reauthorization, I come also to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform for all they do for us in so many ways. Not just in keeping us safe, but also seeing to it that in times of trouble they’re there for us.

“I also want to thank my governor, Nathan Deal, for the advanced planning they did to lead up to the recovery from the hurricane.

“In Georgia, we lost three lives, which is tragic. We’re sorry for each one of them and our hearts go out to those families. Our preparation by Governor Nathan Deal and other leaders in the state saw to it that our reaction and our timeliness was excellent. I want to thank Governor Nathan Deal as well as Georgia Emergency Management in coordination with the agency of FEMA who worked to ensure that everywhere we had danger in Georgia, we also had response for our people and for our state.

“Also, I want to talk for a second about something called JSTARS. JSTARS is an asset of our United States military and our intelligence agencies, and a capability that is second to none in the world. JSTARS stands for Joint Surveillance and Targeted Tag Radar System, or JSTARS, and it’s headquartered in Warner Robins, Ga., at Robins Air Force Base.

“In particular, since the Gulf War and everything that’s happened in the Middle East that has ensued since then, it has been invaluable in command and control capabilities on the ground. It’s an intelligent system that is unmatched by any other military of our advisories in the world.

“We were informed a couple of years ago when we started the effort to recapitalize the JSTARS there may be some movement to move away from JSTARS as a system to protect ourselves and have at our disposal for reconnaissance and recovery and battle management and battle control.

“I had a visit today as a matter of fact, from secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson. A great lady, a former member of the House of Representatives that I served with, an outstanding soldier, and outstanding Air Force person, and certainly as secretary of the Air Force, part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“But she told me that the Air Force was looking at different ways they might deploy ways of recapitalization for JSTARS and other ways to deliver those services to our military personnel, which sent the signal to me that our JSTARS may be in trouble, for reasons that are inexplicable to talk to anybody who’s talking about doing it, and are inexplicable to me as an individual that knows that system well.

“Our country, and our soldiers, and our warfighters have benefitted greatly on the ground and in the air from JSTARS surveillance capabilities. It’s an aging system, but it’s a great system. It’s a system that’s coordinated and delivers a coordinated message we can get nowhere else.

“And I would submit if the Air Force were to decide that rather than recapitalizing these existing JSTARS program as we have been working towards the last few years to go to an alternative delivery system, they are probably giving up security for our country, intel for our men and women on the ground, battlefield coordination you cannot replace in any other way, and an asset we’ve taken advantage far too long in this country.

“So for Chairman McCain, and for whose service I appreciate and his commitment of service to the NDAA, I come to the floor and say that I am with you and I support you, but I want to make sure that we do everything to ensure that JSTARS and the capabilities of that mission are recapitalized for our soldiers in the future and our military in the future.

“For us to do so in my way of thinking would be bad for our soldiers, bad for our security, and bad for our country.

“But I thank Ranking Member Reed and Chairman McCain for the effort they’ve put into this, I thank members of the committee for all the effort they’ve made, I thank our men and women in uniform. I’m glad we got [them] a pay raise, it’s not as much as I would like to see, but I’m glad we got one. I’m glad we’re making a bigger investment in our military.

“But no investment that we give in money can match the investment of spirit, capabilities and commitment of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States of America, and I commend them today, praise them for their effort, and tell them that I’m with you all the way. And I yield back.”

###