Hunter Floor Statement for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

May 15, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988 

Washington D.C. U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, today released the following floor statement for H.R. 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008:

“As legislators, we meet once again to address the wide range of important national security activities undertaken by the Departments of Defense and Energy.  We all take our legislative responsibilities very seriously.  This is especially true during a time of war, and it is always true of my good friend and colleague, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton.

“As a result of his tireless efforts to put forward this bill, our committee reported out the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 last Wednesday.  The vote was unanimous—58 to 0.

“I support this bill.  It reflects our committee’s continued strong support for the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, and in many ways, this bill is a very good bill.  It authorizes the President’s request for $503.8 billion for the Fiscal Year 2008 base budget of the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy.  This amount provides for end-strength growth in both the Army and Marine Corps, continuing initiatives started several years ago by the Armed Services Committee: in fiscal year 2008 the Army would be authorized 525,400—3,000 more than authorized last year—and the Marine Corps would be authorized 189,000—9,000 more than last year.  The bill also includes $142 billion to cover fiscal year 2008 war costs, as requested by the President.

“Some of the initiatives in this legislation continue or build upon successful programs or reinforce good legislation that the House has already passed.  For example, this legislation contains provisions that are essential to maintain a robust defense industrial base.  Last year, the defense authorization bill tried to strike a fair balance between requiring the use of domestic specialty metals for our weapons systems and offering a waiver process in case sufficient metals are not available.  H.R. 1585 establishes a formal rulemaking process for waivers that apply to multiple contracts to facilitate transparency and the gathering of broad industry input.  In this way, the market will be able to respond to supply shortages, fostering investment in domestic industries.

“Other initiatives in this bill modify existing authorities or establish promising new programs and policies—such as adding $4.1 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.  Separately, H.R. 1585 levels the playing field between U.S. companies and foreign countries with which we have free trade agreements.  It rectifies a critical flaw in the U.S. Code that effectively penalizes U.S. companies for complying with U.S. law, while allowing foreign manufacturers to provide non-compliant components and systems. 

“These and other sections go a considerable way in ensuring that our brave men and women in uniform have the best available tools to protect our national security interests.  But this bill is not a perfect bill.  We can—and should—improve it.

“This legislation cuts missile defense programs by almost $800 million dollars.  In 2006, there were about 100 foreign ballistic missile launches around the world, including from North Korea with short-range missiles and a longer-range Taepo-Dong-2 missile and from Iran with its development and testing of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.  I wonder whether—in the face of this growing threat—we should be slowing down the development and fielding of a robust, layered ballistic missile defense system that would prove critical to our nation’s defense.

“This bill recommends a reduction of more than $860 million for the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.  In the past, our committee made smaller cuts to drive behaviors that would lead to a successful system.  With the magnitude of this cut, I worry about the long-term impact on the capability of the U.S. Army and wonder whether we shouldn’t restore some of this funding to ensure that the Army is as prepared as possible to meet future challenges; and

“Finally, this bill provides significant resources for shipbuilding.  I am concerned, however, that we have not fully funded two of the three additional ships that the language purports to have added.  The bill is approximately $145 million less than the amount the Navy needs to buy and take delivery of an additional dry cargo ship—which was number two on the Navy’s unfunded priority list.  Also, the bill provides $588 million for advanced procurement for an additional ship-set of reactor plant heavy components for a Virginia class submarine in 2008.  But it remains up to future congresses to complete the funding and turn these components into an additional submarine before 2012.

“As in years past, I believe that this legislation reflects many of the Armed Service Committee’s priorities in supporting our nation’s dedicated and courageous servicemembers.  I thank Chairman Skelton for putting together an excellent bill and helping us to stay focused on delivering a bill that protects, sustains, and builds our forces.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve—and pass—H.R. 1585.”