Washington D.C.House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09) made the following statement at the beginning of general debate on 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.

“At this point in the process, the bill is a work in progress. It certainly contains some positive aspects that support our men and women in uniform and works to ensure national security. But it also has some provisions that need to be addressed as we move forward.

“The bill authorizes approximately $513.4 billion in discretionary budget authority, including $495.8 billion for the Department of Defense base budget and $17.6 billion for defense-related activities of the Department of Energy. It also authorizes $79.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for overseas contingency operations.

“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. The legislation includes provisions that would require military service secretaries to include an assessment of the handling of sexual assault cases as part of commanding officers’ performance evaluations. It would direct the Pentagon’s inspector general to review the cases of all members of the armed forces who were discharged after making unrestricted reports of sexual assault since Jan. 1, 2002, to determine whether any discharges were in retaliation for reporting sexual assault.

“To prevent sexual assault in the military, we must stay vigilant. This bill helps us do just that. It also supports a 1.8 percent pay raise for the troops. And it 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.

“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.  To address this, I have authored an amendment that provides for a transparent, deliberative, and independent process for considering realignment or closures of military installations.

“The bill also refuses to authorize the Navy’s request to lay up 11 cruisers and three dock landing ships.  The Navy has stated that its plan for phased modernization would save money and add 172 years to these ships’ lives, yet the proposal was blocked in committee. I will offer an amendment to remedy this problem and support the Navy’s plan.

“Additionally, the bill maintains the congressional barriers to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We must close this expensive international eyesore. To do so, I will offer an amendment that provides a framework for closure of the facility.

“I am also 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.

“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 would also like to take a moment to congratulate Debra Wada on her nomination as Assistant Secretary of Manpower and Reserve Affairs for the Army. For more than 15 years, she has passionately served this committee and the men and women in uniform. She will be missed.

“I applaud the hard work of the members of this committee and committee staff up until this point. 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.”