Issue Position: Defense
With the nation facing unprecedented threats, it is essential that our military continues to be the best in the world. The Pentagon must adapt to face 21st century threats such as global terrorists and loose nuclear weapons in the former Soviet states. Senator Obama is working to ensure that the nation's defense capabilities are strong, agile, and prepared and that our troops are provided with the equipment they need.
Respect for the Nation's Armed Forces
American troops are serving admirably overseas. Senator Obama believes that we need to give them the resources they need when in combat, and the support and services they earned when they return home.
Destroying Surplus and Unguarded Conventional Weapons
Small weapons have been responsible for four out of five casualties in recent US conflicts. There are countless caches of older mortars, antipersonnel landmines, and other dangerous weapons spread across the globe. These caches are minimally secured and make attractive targets for terrorists. For instance, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles have hit more than 40 civilian aircraft and killed more than 600 people since the 1970s. The U.S. government's current response to threats from conventional weapons stockpiles is inadequately funded.
Senator Obama has partnered with Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) to address this looming security vulnerability. In 1991, Senator Lugar helped craft the sweeping Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to enable the former Soviet Union to safeguard and dismantle its enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials, and delivery systems. The program has deactivated or destroyed 6,760 nuclear warheads.
After visiting weapons stockpiles in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, Senators Lugar and Obama introduced the Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2006 in the 109th Congress, which would expand the cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons. The Lugar-Obama bill would energize the U.S. program against unsecured lightweight anti-aircraft missiles and other conventional weapons and would strengthen the ability of America's allies to detect and interdict illegal shipments of weapons and materials of mass destruction. Funding would be provided to eliminate unsecured conventional weapons and to assist countries in improving their ability to detect and interdict materials and weapons of mass destruction. The Lugar-Obama bill was included in the Department of State Authorities Act of 2006 and was signed into law by President Bush in January 2007.
Since arriving in Washington in 2005, Senator Obama has been a strong supporter of defense funding. He has supported the annual Defense Department appropriations bills and supplemental appropriations bills that fund American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senator has also supported pay raises for the troops, efforts to improve military readiness, and the acquisition of new weapons systems.
Senator Obama backs efforts to expand TRICARE eligibility and reduce TRICARE premiums so that our nation's service members, Guard members, reservists, and their families can have improved access to health care.
During consideration of the 2005 Defense Department authorization bill, Senator Obama voted to provide additional funding for add-on armor for military vehicles and for additional up-armored military vehicles to help keep our troops in combat safe. According to a report by the New York Times, roughly half of the Army's 20,000 Humvees are fitted with improvised shielding that leaves the underside unprotected, while only one in six Humvees used by the Marines is armored at the highest level of protection.
Senator Obama successfully passed legislation in the Senate to force the Pentagon to work towards an efficient electronic medical records system that will help ensure better care for our nation's troops. It is Senator Obama's goal for each separating service member to receive a secure electronic copy of his or her military and medical records at the time of discharge to smooth the transition to the Department of Veterans' Affairs health care system.
Traumatic Brain Injury
As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Obama has been tracking the high incidence of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) among the veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. Often caused by the shock wave of improvised explosive devices, TBI can result in permanent brain damage. In order to ensure that these returning heroes receive appropriate medical attention, Senator Obama passed legislation in the Senate that requires all soldiers to be assessed for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) after they return from deployments.
Protecting Troops from Avian Flu
In 2005, Senator Obama introduced and the Senate passed legislation that would require the Department of Defense to issue a plan to protect our troops from an avian flu pandemic.
Protecting Illinois' Military Bases
Senator Obama joined with other Illinois members of Congress to protect Illinois' military bases during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Illinois military bases - such as the Springfield Air National Guard, Rock Island Arsenal, Peoria Air National Guard, and Scott Air Force Base - are critical to protecting the state and the nation.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the Illinois delegation, the state will lose some base presence as a result of BRAC. Senator Obama will continue working with the affected communities to reduce the numbers of jobs that are lost and to ensure that the schools and communities near the affected bases continue to thrive despite BRAC.
In 2006, Senator Obama introduced an amendment that was signed into law to require the Air Force to report on its plans for future missions at bases like Springfield Air National Guard, which is scheduled to lose units as a result of BRAC. The report will include an assessment of each base's capabilities and a description of potential future missions.