Washington D.C. – House Armed Service Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09) made the following opening statement during the House’s opening debate on the FY 2013 Nation Defense Authorization Act:
“I want to thank Chairman McKeon, all members of this committee and staff for their hard work and commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion. The bill before the House today represents the 51st consecutive National Defense Authorization Act produced by the House Armed Services Committee, a record that could not be maintained were it not for the dedication of all members of the Committee to work together to conduct the oversight of the Department of Defense required of us by the Constitution.
“Overall, this legislation represents a commitment to meet the threats we face today as well as into the future. It also reflects our strong commitment to ensure that the men and women of our Armed Services receive the benefits and support that they deserve for their faithful service.
“Specially, this legislation supports our efforts to confront violent extremism head-on. As we have seen time and time again, our military has the ability to track down violent extremists who wish to do our country harm, regardless of where they reside. This legislation continues to build on previous efforts to support their important work. The one year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden and the recent attempted attack out of Yemen remind us that that the capabilities provided by our Special Operations Command continue to be vital part of our military.
“This legislation includes several provisions that recognize the strain nearly 10 years of war has placed on our troops. It supports our troops by providing a 1.7 percent pay raise, extending bonuses and special pay and access to family housing for six months. The bill also addresses procedures and regulations for combating sexual assault. I would like to thank all the members of the committee who have worked diligently to make this issue a priority.
“I am also pleased to see the bill places appropriate conditions on aid to Pakistan. Pakistan has been a difficult ally, but a necessary one in the war on al Qaeda, and the bill appropriately recognizes those difficulties and provides for the appropriate incentives and disincentives to encourage Pakistan to reopen our supply lines to Pakistan, crack down on militants who would attack both the U.S. and Pakistan, and interdict IEDs flowing into Afghanistan.
“The bill also includes a number of provisions that help to support small businesses, such as strengthening small business goals and removing barriers that prevent small businesses from competing for Department of Defense contracts. As we move forward with the markup process and work to support economic growth, I would also like to see the committee correct some of the issues related to our export controls and the negative impact they have on the defense industrial base.
“The bill supports investments in science and technology and increased oversight on development of cyber operations capacities. It also helps protect our allies, with investments in programs such as the Iron Dome to shield Israel from missile attacks. My counterpart on the Foreign Affairs committee, Howard Berman first introduced legislation on this matter, and I am pleased the committee could incorporate the spirit of his bill and support our ally Israel.
“While there are many good aspects to this legislation, there are also portions and provisions that concern me. Given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned that the top-line number is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Agreement. Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Agreement number. We should do the same.
“Of great concern to me at this point in time is the President power to indefinitely detain, without due process, individuals captured in the United States. This year’s bill provides us with an opportunity to change that and ensure that any individual detained on U.S. soil under the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) has access to due process and the federal court system – rights firmly stated in the Constitution.
“Clearly, current law gives the executive branch too much power. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation to address this issue and today I will offer an amendment the based on that legislation.
“We should be looking for ways to spend tax payer dollars more wisely and more effectively. While this is a decent bill overall, it does not fully meet the test of helping to solve our long term budget problems. In the short term, funding in the bill will meet many of the needs of our nation’s military. Unfortunately, in the long term, we have failed to make hard choices—we need a long-term strategy based on a budget we can afford. Instead, the NDAA continues our recent pattern of creating future bow waves of funding requirements—we can afford all our programs today, but we won’t be able to afford them all in future when they enter full production. In some cases, we have made the future situation worse, by reversing cuts to programs suggested by the Department—all of these will have future costs for which we will have to find funding. While I support this bill, at some point we as a Congress are going to have to face up to our challenges make some hard choices.
“In that vein, we should not be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a missile defense system on the East Coast that, as General Jacoby bluntly said, the military does not want and does not need. This is an ill-advised funding add to a budget that is already extremely strained and I will support efforts to use this money to reduce our ballooning federal deficit.
“I am also concerned about provisions in the bill that remove the independent oversight of our nuclear labs, especially for health, safety and security for the public and workers. The Department of Energy’s Office of Health, Safety and Security plays an important role in our nuclear security and I will be supporting efforts to ensure that it remains intact.
“It is also concerning that the majority included a sense of Congress on Afghanistan that could lead to greater troop and time commitments. I believe this unwise for our national security. I will offer an amendment to strike this section and replace it with a sense of Congress that supports our effort to bring the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end and transition all control of security and governance to the Afghan people as soon as we responsibly can.
“In our markup we adopted a number of disappointing amendments. Even though ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ has been repealed, the majority on our committee approved amendments that discriminate against gay and lesbian service members. For years, many members of our Armed Services had to hide who they were to fight for the country they love, and I am strongly opposed to efforts that seek to turn back the clock on the progress we have made in the name of equality.
“The committee also approved amendments that took us a step back on energy, by ending support for many kinds of alternative fuels and undermining our national security policy. Our nation must decrease, if not eliminate, its reliance on imported fuels and maintain our leadership in this area. China and many other nations are seeking to become leaders in this area, and the committee’s actions will set us back and risk our leadership in this arena.
“While this bill represents a good start, moving forward there will be disagreements, and we must continue to resolve our disagreements respectfully and with the same outcome in mind: provide our service men and women with the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security.
“Again, I applaud the hard work of the members of this committee and committee staff. This committee always lives up to its commitment to bipartisanship and I thank all the members for their hard work on behalf of the men and women in uniform.”