Opinion Editorials

The recent horrific terror attack at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, opened the nation’s eyes once again to the dangers of radical Islamic extremism — a perverted ideology that spouts hate and encourages violence against members of the LGBT community, people of the Christian and Jewish faiths, and American citizens who live in freedom and welcome diversity.

The attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and now Orlando remind us that terrorists must not be allowed to maintain physical, ungoverned sanctuaries from which they can inspire, direct, and conduct attacks against us.

They also magnify the threats our uniformed service members in Arizona and across the country continue to confront in dangerous missions around the world.

We need to defeat ISIL — not eventually, but as soon as possible. To do so, our country needs a strategy to confront this growing threat, and our service members need the training and equipment to be successful.

Fortunately, the United States Senate acted to support this mission, and other vital commitments around the world, by passing the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 (NDAA) by a vote of 85-13.

Once enacted, this bill will ensure service members stationed in Tucson and around the country have what they need to fight terrorism and defend the homeland, while improving the quality of lives for service members, veterans and their families.

The Senate-passed NDAA advances major reforms to Department of Defense organization that can help our military rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world.

It contains sweeping changes to how the military buys and develops major weapons systems to harness American innovation and preserve our military’s technological edge.

It also modernizes the military health system to provide military service members, retirees, and their families with a higher quality of care. And it authorizes a pay raise for our troops.

This legislation would also ensure that Arizona continues to make critical contributions to national security. For example, the NDAA prevents the Obama Administration from prematurely retiring the A-10 fleet at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The A-10 is the best close-air support aircraft in our nation’s arsenal and is playing a critical role directing allied troops on the group and carrying out air-to-ground attacks against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria.

The NDAA ensures we do not retire this important aircraft without fielding a suitable replacement.

In addition, the NDAA fully funds the EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack airplanes stationed at Davis-Monthan.

These jamming and surveillance aircraft have been instrumental in protecting American ground troops from sophisticated electronic attacks in conflicts across the Middle East such as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as against potential threats in the Pacific and Europe.

But Arizona’s proud military history is not just a product of our bases. The Senate NDAA enhances Arizona’s proud military industrial base by supporting the important work it does to manufacture and innovate advanced defense technologies that allow our military to respond to current and future threats.

For example, this legislation doubles Raytheon’s budget to manufacture 96 additional Tomahawk missiles and 439 Sidewinder missiles; and funds the Navy’s request for 125 SM-6 missiles to be developed at Raytheon, allowing our troops to deter and defeat any potential adversary.

This bill also works to combat the scourge of drugs being brought into this country illegally, often across our southern border. Specifically, it enhances information and intelligence sharing among Arizona’s military community and our border agents to help stop illegal drug trafficking, while enhancing security activities at our ports of entry.

Most importantly, this legislation gives our troops the resources they need to defend the nation at a time when the challenges we face have never been more diverse or complex.

The attack in Orlando has reminded us all that time is not on our side. We must defeat radical Islamic terrorism before it further metastasizes and inspires another act of mass violence on American soil.

As the Senate soon begins reconciling the NDAA with the House of Representatives and moves it closer to enactment, I hope the Congress and the President will take these challenges seriously and give our troops the resources and support they need to succeed.