Statement by Senator Mark Pryor
On Senate Approval of the Department of Defense Authorization Bill
I am pleased that the U.S. Senate today passed the FY 04 Defense Authorization Bill and has agreed to authorize critical military projects in Arkansas and across the nation.
This bill represents a 3.2 percent increase in defense spending and the projects funded in it are important to our nation's long-term defense strategy, our military personnel's quality of life and many of our state's local economies.
Earlier this year in Iraq, our servicemen and women once again proved that they are the best trained and best equipped military in the world. Congress, through its work today, has sent the message that we intend to keep it that way.
This legislation will aid our nation in its continuing efforts to modernize the Armed Forces and ensures that military
personnel receive the resources they need to successfully achieve their military objectives and defend our freedoms and democracy.
This legislation also recognizes that we must take good care of our military personnel off of the battlefield by improving compensation and quality of life programs for service members, retirees and their families.
In doing so, I was pleased that the Senate authorized a 3.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for all uniformed service personnel, a targeted pay raise of 5.25 to 6.25 percent for mid-career service members as well as several deployment and incentive pay measures.
I am, however, concerned about provisions in this bill that allow for a new generation of nuclear weapons to be considered. We have not demonstrated a need to take these actions and we may well be opening a Pandora's Box which will be very difficult to close.
Regardless of rhetoric and of assurances that this Administration only intends to research the development of low-yield nuclear weapons - our actions speak louder than words. We might find it harder to convince countries such as India, Pakistan and most importantly North Korea to forgo their nuclear programs when we do not live up to that standard.
I believe that we need to keep our commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the nuclear research and development proposals adopted by the Senate and supported by this Administration, run contrary to that that goal.