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58 Harv. J. on Legis. 1 (2021)

handle is hein.journals/hjl58 and id is 1 raw text is: THE NATIONAL DEFENSE
AUTHORIZATION ACT:
THE STURDY OX OF LEGISLATION
CONGRESSMAN
WILLIAM MCCLELLAN MAC THORNBERRY*
I. INTRODUCTION
Throughout the country and across the political spectrum, there is a
consensus that Congress is not working the way it should. A Gallup poll
released in July 2020 found that just eighteen percent of Americans approve
of the job Congress is doing, and it is no wonder.1 Few significant bills are
passed while important problems continue to fester.2 Invectives are hurled
back and forth through dueling press conferences and tweets. Legislation
that does get passed often comes at the last possible moment and is written
largely in the offices of party leaders. The legislative branch does not seem
to be functioning as our civics classes taught us it should. The dysfunction
has mounted in recent years under both political parties as political pressures
pull each side toward polarization and hardline stands.
There is one notable exception. Every year for the past 59 years, Con-
gress, under majorities of both parties, and presidents of both parties, has
passed and signed into law a National Defense Authorization Act
(NDAA). The Act establishes and organizes the agencies responsible for
national defense, sets policies for the department, and authorizes the appro-
priations of funds . .. .I Each year's NDAA authorizes the number of ships,
planes, and vehicles the military will buy, the pay and benefits service mem-
bers will receive, the military construction projects to be built, and the
amounts devoted to research and development of new technologies. It also
addresses a number of significant policy issues.
The NDAA may well be the last vestige of traditional legislating of the
sort we learned about in school. While not addressing all the issues facing
the country in national security, the NDAA has successfully tackled some
* Member, United States House of Representatives (R-Tex.). Congressman Thornberry
served as the Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He
served as Chairman from January 2015 to January 2019.
'Megan Brenan, Congress' Approval Drops to 18%, Trump's Steady at 41%, GALLUP
(July 30, 2020), https://news.gallup.com/poll/316448/congress-approval-drops-trump-
steady.aspx [https://perma.cc/27XJ-Z7V2].
2 See Paul Kane & Derek Willis, How Congress Stopped Working, PROPUBLICA (Nov. 5,
2018, 10:00 AM), https://www.propublica.org/article/how-congress-stopped-working [https://
perma.cc/V6PE-7WJ9].
3 NESE F. DEBRUYNE & BARBARA SALAZAR TORREON, CONG. RESEARCH SERV., 98-756,
DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION AND APPROPRIATIONS BILLS: FY1961-FY2020, 1 (2020), https://
crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/RL/98-756 [https://perma.cc/57HN-GX2U].

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