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 mark up the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act:

“As with every year, I would like to thank all the members of the committee – both Republicans and Democrats – as well as staff for all their hard work in drafting this important piece of legislation.

“In that spirit, I would also like to take a moment to thank Chairman McKeon for his years of effort on behalf of this committee.  This will be his last year as chairman of this committee and in the House, and I know all the members here share the view that it has been a pleasure to work with him.  His dedication to the men and women in uniform is unquestioned, and we thank him for his service.

“In today’s markup, for the 53rd year, this committee will work in a bipartisan fashion on this important piece of legislation.  The results of our work here today will reflect our combined 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.

“Building on our efforts from previous years, the bill includes some reforms aimed at preventing sexual assault in the military, supporting victims, and prosecuting offenders. To prevent sexual assault in the military, we must stay vigilant. This bill helps us to do just that. The bill also takes steps to address suicide and behavioral health issues among our military personnel as well as their families -- another area of growing concern which must be addressed.

“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, by supporting U.S. Special Operations Forces as well as cyber operations and U.S. Cyber Command. Confronting the unique threats of today requires unique capabilities. This bill recognizes that fact.

“While there are many good aspects to this legislation, there are also portions and provisions that concern me. It fails to make the difficult choices necessary to address the crushing financial constraints placed on this budget by Congress. For example, the bill does not authorize a much needed round of BRAC. The Department is being forced to maintain excess infrastructure, which takes money away from training, maintenance, and operations.  The bill also refuses to address growing personnel costs and does not authorize the Navy’s request to lay up 11 ships. 

“We must get these growing costs under control, regardless of how difficult the politics. If we continue along this path, and sequestration remains the law of the land, our military readiness will be significantly degraded. In today’s world, that is unacceptable and it is wholly avoidable, which is why I support ending sequestration immediately.

“I am particularly concerned about cutting readiness to $1.4 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 $1.4 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 force.

“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 members with the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security.

“I applaud the hard work of the members of this committee and committee staff. This committee always lives up to its commitment to bipartisanship and I expect nothing less as we mark up this important piece of legislation.”