The conferencing process for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which props up defense-related spending in the U.S., will likely begin within three weeks, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson said in a brief interview Monday following a speech at the Aiken Rotary Club.
Asked further if the hashing out of House and Senate differences would soon begin, the longtime congressman said, "Yes, yes, yes."
Wilson was appointed to the FY19 NDAA conference committee last year by then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Wilson on Monday said he would like to be named again.
"I'm hoping," the South Carolina Republican said. "You never know."
The authorization act has a heightened profile in Aiken County – and the CSRA, more broadly – because of the Savannah River Site, the sprawling federal installation near New Ellenton and Jackson home to various weapons and nuclear waste missions.
Last fiscal year's NDAA, signed by President Donald Trump at a military-centric ceremony at Fort Drum, New York, apportioned hundreds of millions of dollars for the now-nixed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and called for outside review and observation of the proposed plutonium pit production mission, which has been recommended for South Carolina and New Mexico in tandem. Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores, often referred to as triggers.
Wilson attended the New York ceremony.
"Funding to modernize our nuclear arsenal, so important..." Trump said at the time. "We're spending a tremendous amount of money on our nuclear arsenal."
On Monday, Wilson said "never before" has it been as important to maintain "peace through strength," an apparent allusion to ratcheting tensions in the Middle East and beyond. The congressman is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and sits on the strategic forces subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over nuclear weapon, arms control and nonproliferation policy, among other things. The subcommittee focuses on the nation's defense and energy departments, the latter of which owns the Savannah River Site.
"But indeed, I've been working for a strong military," Wilson said. "Last year was particularly successful."
The congressman's visit and presentation at the Aiken Rotary Club was part of his annual bus tour, a four-day expedition across South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. Wilson has represented the district for nearly two decades now.