Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement after the House passed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report:
“I want to thank Chairman McKeon, all members of the House of Representatives and staff for their hard work on this important piece of legislation.
“Overall, this bill prioritizes our troops deployed in Afghanistan and around the world by ensuring that they have the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security. It also provides our troops and their families with the benefits and support that they deserve, including a 1.7 percent pay increase.
“It continues to make counterterrorism a priority and makes significant investments in all branches of our Armed Services, ensuring that our military is prepared to meet the threats of today as well as the future. It supports our troops as they continue to fight overseas, invests in new technologies for the future, and protects vital military equipment production capacity here at home.
“More specifically, looking abroad, the bill reaffirms our commitment to transfer responsibility for security to the Afghan people, provides robust funding to continue to support Israel with missile defense, including additional funding for the Iron Dome, and imposes painful sanctions on Iran. It authorizes nearly $11 billion, almost $160 million more than the President’s budget request, for US Special Operations Command, which has been a key component of the war against violent extremists.
“Domestically, the bill provides guidelines to be incorporated into the Department of Defense’s comprehensive policy on sexual assault prevention, permits the use of funds for abortions for female service members and female dependents of service members in cases of rape or incest, and removes the prohibition on the procurement of biofuels. Our nation must decrease, if not eliminate, its reliance on imported fuels and maintain our leadership in this area. While the biofules provision is not perfect, it does help move our country forward. The bill also supports nuclear non-proliferation efforts and maintains safe, secure and reliable arsenal while preserving important oversight and protection of workers and the public.
“From an economic and national security perspective, the bill reforms satellite export controls and restores the authority of the President to move satellites and related items from the United States Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. The language strikes the right balance between economics and security. It allows our satellite industry to keeps its competitive edge, while protecting information and technology vital to our national security. The conference agreement also includes several provisions that will enhance the opportunity and capabilities of U.S. small businesses to successfully compete for and perform Department of Defense contracts.
“This is a good bill, and I encourage my colleagues to support it. However, I am troubled by some of its components and we must work to address them moving forward. Specifically, the conference agreement includes modified language, titled the “Conscience Clause,” which would accommodate the beliefs of members and chaplains reflecting the conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs of a service member or chaplain. It does not, however, protect the actions or speech of such service members or chaplains which would threaten good order and discipline. Will commanders be trained on how to accommodate beliefs without also having to accommodate action and speech? This language will only make the situation even more confusing and convoluted. No language needed to be included in the bill. Chaplains are already protected by last year’s bill from performing ceremonies they did not want to conduct. And, current policy already protects their religious freedoms within the constraints of also wearing a uniform.
“The ‘conscience clause’ was a veiled attempt to rekindle the debate regarding homosexuals in the military. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, but there is a small but determined group of people who continue to push this issue. It’s time to end this debate. We have heard from service members, chaplains, and the leadership at the Department of Defense that gay and lesbian service members in the military are not an issue. Droves of service members are not leaving the force because of the change in policy, nor has it affected the readiness of the force. It is time for us to move forward; the rest of the country has, and DOD should not be held hostage to the whims of certain individuals.
“Additionally, this conference report does not adequately address issues related to detainees and how we deal with individuals captured inside the United States under the jurisdiction of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and last year’s NDAA. While the conference report contains language regarding habeas corpus and the preservation of constitutional rights in our Article III civilian courts, it does not actually change the law, it just confuses everyone a little more with political statements rather than good law. Congress must speak clearly on this issue and I will continue to fight to protect the due process rights of all persons as we move forward.
“This report continues the ban on transferring detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay to the United States for another year, micromanaging the President’s ability to manage the detention of those captured in the war on al Qaeda, and restricting the use of Article III courts, which are a potent and effective tool in prosecuting terrorists. This ties the Commander in Chief’s hands in a time of war and makes it impossible to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, which is a black eye on our nation and serves as a recruiting tool for violent extremists. It is in our interest to get as many nations as possible to take responsibility for detaining al Qaeda members and associates and to accept repatriated detainees from Guantanamo, and these transfer bans make it harder, not easier, to enlist other nations in this effort. I am hopeful that we can address this issue sensibly moving forward.
“On a positive note, the conference report eliminates several detainee provisions which I strongly objected to. These provisions include the Ayotte amendment, which would have permanently banned the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States and a provision which would have required many foreign terrorists to be tried by military commissions and not in our federal civilian courts.
“Again, I supported this bill. We must ensure that our men and women in uniform have the tools and resources they need to ensure national security and accomplish the missions we ask of them.”