Washington D.C. – House Armed Service Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09) made the following opening statement at today’s full committee meeting to markup the FY 2014 Nation Defense Authorization Act:
“I want to thank Chairman McKeon, the members of this committee and the staff for their hard work and commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion.
“In today’s markup, for the 52nd year, this committee will work in a bipartisan fashion on this important piece of legislation. The National Defense Authorization Act is designed to meet the threats we face today as well as into the future. The results of our work here today will reflect our strong commitment to ensure that the men and women of our Armed Services receive the benefits and support that they deserve for their faithful service.
“Overall, the Chairman’s mark represents a commitment to meet the threats we face today as well as into the future. It also reflects our strong commitment to ensure that the men and women of our Armed Services receive the benefits and support they deserve for their faithful service.
"Building on our efforts from previous years, this bill encompasses a number of initiatives designed to confront sexual assault in the military. It is paramount that we protect those who protect our nation. Among other changes, the mark strips commanding officers of their unilateral authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction and requires that service members found guilty of sexual offenses be dismissed or dishonorably discharged. It also provides legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses, requires improved training for all military and civilian attorneys involved in sex-related cases, and protects victims to ensure they don't face reprisal for reporting incidents of sexual assault. I would like to thank all the members of the committee who have worked diligently to make this issue a priority.
“This legislation alone will not solve the problem, however. As demonstrated by the recent sexual assault incidents, the military has failed to address the cultural issues that have allowed sexual assault to take place and made it difficult for victims to come forward. While the military continues to make efforts to address these issues, far more work remains to be done. As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to stay engaged with the Department of Defense and my colleagues on the committee to ensure that the military is doing everything it can to protect our service members.
“This legislation recognizes the reality that we live in a dangerous world, where threats are not always easily identifiable, and our enemies are not bound by borders. Confronting this unique type of enemy requires unique capabilities. As we have seen time and time again, our military has the ability to track down violent extremists who wish to do our country harm, regardless of where they reside. U.S. Special Operations Command, a vital part of our military, provides much of this capability. This legislation continues to build on previous efforts to support their important work.
“The bill includes several provisions that recognize the strain more than a decade of war has placed on our troops and the equipment, technology, and tools that they use. It supports a 1.8 percent pay raise. At a time when military readiness continues to be hurt by mindless cuts through sequestration, the $174.6 billion in operation and maintenance funding the bill provides will help mend some of the damage that has been done to overused equipment and neglected facilities. It also strengthens our ability to confront cyber threats, and provides important authorities to protect vital information. Additionally, the mark codifies congressional oversight of drone strikes and capture missions in a bipartisan provision. The bill also continues to lay the foundation for enabling competition in military space launch.
“The bill also supports strong cooperation with our allies and partners to safeguard international and regional security, including an increase of over $200 million for missile defense cooperation with Israel.
“While there are many good aspects to this legislation, there are also portions and provisions that concern me. Specifically, this bill prevents the Administration from closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by banning the transfer of detainees, and prohibiting the construction or modification of facilities in the United States to house detainees. As Kenneth Wainstein, a senior national security lawyer at the Department of Justice Office under President George W. Bush, recently summarized: "The situation is not sustainable. We need an exit strategy." I agree, but Republicans in Congress continue to stand in the way. It’s time to remove the restrictions.
“The bill also authorizes approximately $250 million to replace temporary facilities at Guantanamo Bay, in some instances with permanent facilities. This is a ridiculous waste of money and we should be closing this expensive and unnecessary facility.
“I will propose multiple amendments to end this wasteful spending, reform this counterproductive policy, and help close this unnecessary facility.
“I am still deeply concerned about the President’s authority, as stipulated by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), to indefinitely detain individuals apprehended in the United States – including citizens of the United States -- without due process and with little independent review or oversight. While the President has said he will not utilize this authority, it is still a frightening amount of power for any one individual and it is counter to the rights enshrined in the United States Constitution. We have an opportunity, through this year’s bill, to protect constitutional rights and roll back this authority.
“Given the size of our debt and deficit and the significant challenges created by sequestration, I am concerned about unnecessary and wasteful spending incorporated into the bill. In particular, the Strategic Forces portion of the mark contains nearly a half-billion dollars in wasteful spending the Department of Defense did not ask for and does not need. The bill also prevents the department from realizing future savings by consolidating and realigning base infrastructure. As members of Congress, it is our job to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. It is important that we live up to that role. We should be looking for ways to spend taxpayer dollars more wisely and more effectively.
“In addition, the bill denies funding for nuclear weapons reductions, even as the United States and Russia continue to possess over 90% of the nuclear weapons worldwide. Delaying or preventing implementation of the US-Russia New START Treaty undermines strategic stability and progress toward reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.
"The mark also points out the necessity of removing sequestration. For some time now, this committee has highlighted the damaging effects of sequestration, and we have witnessed over the last year the damaging impact it has on our military. Sequestration is no longer a hypothetical - we have seen the serious damage that it causes. If Congress does not act, the situation is only going to get worse and the work we have done to support our troops through this bill will not be fully realized.
“The bill also mandates changes that undermine strong health and safety oversight at the Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex sites and at the Hanford Site.
“Moving forward, there will 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. This committee has always lived up to its commitment to bipartisanship, and I expect nothing less today as we mark up this important piece of legislation.”