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 2015 National Defense Authorization Act:
“I voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act today, but it was not an easy vote. In fact, this is the closet I’ve ever come to voting against the bill and I only voted in favor because we still have time to fix the bill. But we must fix the bill.
“This bill does not make any of the hard choices necessary to confront our fiscal challenges. Congress forced the Department of Defense to craft a budget within the confines of a limited amount of resources. The department made difficult choices. It did what we asked of it, and then Congress simply undid all of the department’s cost-saving measures and slashed readiness accounts without offering alternatives.
“From the Navy’s request to lay up 14 ships to BRAC to the A-10 to the U-2 and the Guard and Reserve helicopter changes to personnel costs, Congress said “no” to the Department of Defense without offering alternatives. It is not our job to accept the department’s budget as is, but if we are to reject the Pentagon’s cost-saving measures we need to offer alternatives. We didn’t. We ducked every difficult decision. We played accounting games and cut readiness as we stand by and wait for a miracle. We owe our troops more.
“I am deeply concerned about cutting readiness to $1.2 billion below the President’s budget request. This committee has relentlessly and correctly pointed out the negative effect that across-the-board budget cuts have had on military readiness, yet this bill slashes readiness accounts by $1.2 billion below what was requested by the President. That is unacceptable. Certainly, given the congressionally mandated spending caps, this year’s budget is far more difficult than past years, but that is no excuse to further undermine the readiness of our forces.
“On many of these issues, Congress wasn’t even allowed a vote. The Rules Committee ruled the vast majority of the difficult votes out of order. We dodged the difficult issues by not even allowing a vote. I had an amendment to restore the Navy’s plan for the cruisers and dock landing ships and another amendment that would allow the military to execute a BRAC. Neither was even given a vote.
“Additionally, the bill maintains the congressional barriers to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We must close this expensive international eyesore. But again, Congress simply said no without offering an alternative.
“Ultimately, I voted in favor because I believe in our oversight role and I believe that we still have time to fix this bill. But, in the end, if our bill simply becomes about protecting parochial interests, then we are not doing our job.
“So as we go into conference and as we go forward, it is the obligation of this Congress to say: What is our plan? Right now our plan is hope. We are hoping that the money will appear. We are hoping for a miracle. We are hoping that somehow we magically won't have to make tough decisions. I heard very early on in my time on the Armed Services Committee one of the sayings in the military is ``hope is not a strategy.'' We must heed that advice. We must do better.
“As we move to conference with the Senate, we must address these issues.”