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 opening statement for the mark-up of H.R. 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008:
“This committee meets once again to address the wide range of important national security activities undertaken by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. We all take our legislative responsibilities—as well as our oversight responsibilities—very seriously. This is especially true during a time of war. I thank my good friend and colleague, Chairman Ike Skelton, for spearheading an excellent effort to put together a National Defense Authorization Act that reflects our committee’s strong and continued support for the brave men and women of the United States armed services.
“This bill is a good bill. It authorizes the President’s request for $503 billion for Fiscal Year 2008 base budget of the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy. It includes an additional $142 billion to cover Fiscal Year 2008 war costs. And the Army and Marine Corps end-strength growth in this legislation continues initiatives started several years ago: in Fiscal Year 2008 the Army would be authorized at 525,400—3,000 more than authorized last year—and the Marine Corps would be authorized at 189,000—9,000 more than last year.
“Some of the excellent initiatives in this legislation continue successful programs—such as the Commanders Emergency Response Program, which is working well on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Others reinforce good legislation that the House has already passed—such as Wounded Warrior legislation to address the challenges that face our recovering service members and families. Still others modify existing authorities or establish new programs and policies, which hold promise—such as adding $4.1 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.
“This legislation also avoids contentious language—such as possible withdrawal dates from Iraq—which would have put our bill at risk of a Presidential veto. Such important matters deserve debate and analysis by this authorizing body before Congress makes major changes to our military’s war-fighting missions and the tools at its disposal.
“I appreciate that Chairman Skelton made the prudent choice of not including in his mark any language that would amend the Military Commissions Act (MCA). This committee worked hard during the last Congress to construct a framework that would provide for the swift and fair prosecution of enemy combatants. I’m pleased that the commissions are underway and that the Defense Department expects to charge and try a significant number of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in the coming year. The Congress should ensure that those who perpetrated the attacks of September 11th are brought to justice and that no action delays this process. The MCA framework is working, and its constitutionality has been upheld. Despite some challenges, neither the D.C. Circuit nor the Supreme Court has ruled against the MCA. If the highest court in the land has passed on changing the MCA, so should this Congress.
“But this bill is not a perfect bill. There is room for improvement:
- “This legislation cuts missile defense programs by almost $800 million dollars. I wonder whether we should be slowing down the development and fielding of elements that would prove critical to our nation’s defense—especially in light of North Korea’s test of several short-range missiles and a longer-range Taepo-Dong-2 missile and Iran’s continued development and test of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles;
- “This bill recommends a reduction of $867 million for the Army’s Future Combat System. In the past, this 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, as a committee, restore some of this funding to ensure we have an Army that is as prepared as possible to meet the challenges of the future;
- “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;
- “For example, the mark in Title III funds procurement of an additional dry cargo ship, or T-AKE, which was number two on the Navy’s unfunded priority list. Unfortunately, the mark is approximately $145 million less than the amount the Navy needs to buy and take delivery of the ship;
- “Similarly, the mark attempts to advance the ramp up in production for Virginia class submarines to two per year. The Navy currently plans to move to two a year starting in 2012—to give the program time to reduce the costs per submarine. While this mark contains $588 million for advanced procurement for an additional ship-set of reactor plant heavy components and main propulsion components for a Virginia class submarine in 2008, it will be left to future congresses to complete the funding if these components are to be turned into an additional submarine before 2012; and
- “This legislation provides an increase in basic military pay for fiscal year 2008 that is 0.5% above the level requested in the President’s budget. That’s important, not only because it recognizes the service of our men and women in uniform, but also because it reduces the military-civilian pay gap from about 4% now to about 3.56%. We think that we should continue reducing that pay gap, and I understand that later in this mark up, Rep. Drake will introduce an amendment that will require future military basic pay raises in 2009 through 2012 to do so – and effectively reduce the pay gap to about 1.5%.
“As in year’s past, I believe that this mark reflects many of this committee’s priorities in supporting our nation’s dedicated and courageous servicemembers. In this politically-charged environment, we need to ensure that we stay focused on delivering a bill that protects, sustains, and builds our forces.
“I look forward to working with you all throughout the day and staying focused on this important goal.”