Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement on the release of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report:
This bill is the culmination of nearly a year’s work and a collective devotion to providing for the national defense. It represents a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act and, given the significant national security challenges we face, this is a must-pass piece of legislation. While it is not perfect, on balance it represents a commitment to our troops and provides our military with vital resources and authorities.
Because passing this legislation before the end of the calendar year is vital, these two products were merged through a series of negotiations at all levels of the House and Senate. This legislation represents broad, bipartisan consensus about America’s national security goals, resources, and policies.
There are many good aspects to this bill, such as support for the President’s request for a 1 percent pay raise for the troops, and an important agreement that restores the $818 million in cuts made to readiness accounts by the House Armed Services Committee. To combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), this bill provides important authorities for the Department of Defense to train and equip the Iraqi Army and moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.
The bill authorizes funds for a variety of different major weapons programs and platforms and creates a $1.3 billion Counter Terrorism Partnership Fund that supports partner nation operations and U.S. Building Partnership Capacity programs to combat terrorism in the Middle East and Africa. To help protect Israel, the bill provides $350 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The bill also has a number of provisions designed to address sexual assault in the military, and authorizes $1.1 billion, equal to the President’s budget request, for the environmental restoration accounts of the Department of Defense and Military Departments.
The bill, however, fails to make some of the difficult choices necessary to address the financial constraints put in place by Congress. If this continues, and sequestration remains the law of the land, our military readiness will be significantly degraded. In today’s world, that is unacceptable and it is wholly avoidable.
Congress forced sequestration on the Department of Defense yet refuses to help the department deal with the consequences of that idiotic policy. This year, the Department of Defense provided 10 measures designed to cope with the significant cuts mandated through sequestration. The House accepted none of them, and the Senate accepted two. The conference report includes reduced versions of the cost-saving measures accepted by the Senate. If we are to ensure that our military is equipped and ready to provide for the national defense, we have got to do better. It is our responsibility to do better.
I am also disappointed that this bill continues to block the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is an international eyesore that undermines our national security objectives, damages our credibility with regard to human rights and international law, and wastes taxpayer dollars. As the cost for the facility continues to increase, so too does the need to close it. But, we cannot effectively close this facility until the congressionally mandated restrictions are removed. It’s a shame that the majority in Congress does not see the damage that GTMO does to our national security and credibility around the world.
However, on balance, this bill represents an important piece of legislation that must get to the President’s desk. It certainly contains provisions that I would like to see changed or removed, but it also contains authorities and authorizations that are greater than the sum of its shortfalls. We must move this bill forward.