Washington D.C.Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement today as debate began on the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act:

 “Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee in support of H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. 

 “As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I want to thank Chairman McKeon and all of my colleagues on the committee for their hard work in drafting this important piece of legislation. This committee has again lived up to its long history of bipartisanship.

 “I would also like to take a moment to recognize the absence of a key member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  In her absence, her staff has worked diligently to ensure that this legislation addresses important issues that she has championed. As she continues to makes great strides in recovering, her commitment to her district and this country has never wavered, and she is an inspiration to us all.

 “Overall, the National Defense Authorization Act prioritizes our troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world by ensuring that they have the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security. It also provides our troops and their families with the benefits and support that they deserve, including a 1.6 percent pay increase.

 “As the world now knows with death of Osama Bin Laden, the United States possesses the ability to hunt down violent extremists who wish to do our country harm regardless of where they reside. A large part of that capability is due to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is a vital part of our military. This legislation continues to build on previous efforts and supports their important work confronting violent extremism head-on.

 “This bill continues to make significant investments in all branches of our Armed Services that will ensure our military is prepared to meet the threats of today as well as the future. It supports our troops as they continue to fight overseas, invests in new technologies for the future, and protects vital military equipment production capacity here at home.

 “It authorizes funding to ensure that our troops are properly trained and their equipment is properly maintained so they can succeed in their missions. It also makes sure they have the facilities and services they deserve when they return home and supports a robust shipbuilding plan that will help us to reach the Navy’s stated goal of 313 ships.

 “While there are many good aspects of this bill, there are also aspects that can be improved upon. For example, some provisions in this bill restrict the President’s ability to bring violent extremists to justice or transfer detainees to country’s willing and capable of taking them.

 “In a time of war, we must not take options for trying and managing detainees off the table. This portion of the bill expresses doubt in a court system that has been a model for the world for more than 200 hundred years. A system that has tried and convicted more than 400 defendants for violations of international terrorism laws since September 11, 2001. For these reasons, I will offer an amendment to remove the provisions that restrict the use of Article III courts and transfers to foreign counties.

 “While we disagree, I do appreciate the majority’s willingness to engage on this important issue. The Chairman has shown no lack of bipartisanship, even on an issue as difficult and contentious as this one. Moving forward, we will continue to work in good faith to resolve this important national security problem.

 “I am also troubled by the way the Majority has treated the U.S. Family Health Plans issue.  Eliminating funding for this might free up some funds in the Department of Defense, but really all it does is shift the cost for these retirees to Medicare.  And while using the now-freed DOD funds to address the Widow’s Tax might sound good, really what we have done is pit the interests of widows against those of retirees, and that’s just not right.”

 “The language in the bill that excludes the Department of Defense from section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is also concerning.  Section 526 does not prohibit the production or importation of alternative or unconventional fields, as some claim. What is does do it prohibit tax dollars from being used to purchase fuels that have a higher pollution emission than conventional fuels.  As the largest Federal Agency, exempting DoD from 526 is a step backward in this effort.

 “As we move forward with debating this piece of legislation there will surely be disagreements, but we must continue to resolve our disagreements respectfully and with the same outcome in mind: provide our service men and women with the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security.

 “Again, I applaud the hard work of the members of this committee and committee staff and I look forward to engaging with all my colleagues in the House as we seek to amend this important piece of legislation.