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 the policy provisions included in the H.R. 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008:
“As I said earlier, this legislation reflects our committee’s strong and continued support for the brave men and women of the United States armed services. Before we begin, I would like to highlight key areas in this mark.
“This February, the Administration presented to Congress a budget that reflected a holistic view of defense spending—a budget which addressed costs of the global war on terror for Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008, as well as the Fiscal Year 2008 base budget for the Department of Defense and defense-related activities of the Department of Energy. The legislation before us today fully funds the President’s request for $142 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 to support war costs. It reflects this committee’s priority of ensuring that equipment reset and readiness – which are so essential to the long-term health of our forces—have a primary focus and proper funding.
“In mentioning the global war on terror, I want to note that this legislation addresses a particular concern of mine: al Qaeda’s resurgence along the Afghan border in the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan. Over the last 18 months, the Defense Department has been implementing a three-year pilot program to provide foreign assistance –traditionally a State Department function—so that we can do more to build the capacity of foreign militaries to combat terrorism. Since Pakistani military forces don’t operate in Waziristan, this bill would allow the Secretary of Defense to work with Pakistani security forces that do, in fact, undertake difficult law enforcement operations there. This case is exceptional, though, and should not become the rule for this program.
“In turning to issues concerning the National Guard and Reserve, I appreciate that Chairman Skelton’s mark contains provisions that implements not only a number of the recommendations of the Commission on National Guard and Reserves but also those ideas contained in National Guard Empowerment Act, as championed by Representatives Gene Taylor and Tom Davis. The legislation before us was developed in concert with our two colleagues:
- “It would substantially increase the National Guard Bureau Chief’s role in military operations in support of civil authorities;
- “It would require that the National Guard Bureau Chief serve as 4-star general and become a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and
- “Consistent with the recommendation of the Guard and Reserve Commission, this bill does not designate the National Guard Bureau Chief as a member of the Joint Chiefs.
“As in past years, one of the central titles of the bill relates to acquisition policy. The Chairman included many provisions already passed by this committee and the full House in the Accountability in Contracting Act. I thank the Chairman for his prudence in omitting the provision that would have applied ambiguous employment restrictions to federal employees.
“This mark also 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 that our weapons systems use domestic specialty metals and offering a waiver process in case sufficient domestic specialty metals are not available. I am pleased that the Chairman’s mark would establish 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.
“Separately, the Chairman’s mark contains a provision which would level 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.
“I am pleased to say that the Chairman’s mark is taking bold, bipartisan steps to align the military’s roles and missions with the way the Department buys and budgets for weapons systems. The legislation would require the Department to characterize the military’s core mission areas and identify core competencies for each Defense Department component. Further, new programs could only be approved if they fulfill validated requirements and are being executed by a service with a relevant core competency. The intent is to involve the Joint Requirements Oversight Council earlier, focus it on required capabilities instead of specific weapons system performance requirements, and get it to link priorities and resources.
Finally, the mark implements consistent future capability planning across the combatant commands to enable prioritization of capabilities and decision making. This is a significant accomplishment, and I cannot express strong enough support for Chairman Skelton’s efforts.
“I’d like to take a moment to express my concerns about the establishment of the Defense Readiness Production Board. This provision would create a board to ‘monitor and assess the readiness of the Armed Services’ and ‘identify and formally designate critical readiness requirements’. While I understand that the Chairman’s intent is to be proactive, it’s not clear to me why Congress needs to add an additional layer of bureaucracy to tell us that we need more high-demand, low-density assets. Our military already has a process for determining equipment shortfalls. In my view, this board would not provide any additional information or insight and would allow the Secretary to begin transferring billions of dollars among various accounts – without regard for congressional intent. It seems as though this mark may be creating new institutional bureaucracies and transfer authorities that could prevent effective congressional oversight.
“With that said, I’d like to thank Chairman Skelton for putting together an excellent mark. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve this package, as appropriate, and pass this bill.”