Armed Services Committee Member Garamendi Votes for National Defense Authorization Act
WASHINGTON, DC – After months of debate, committee hearings, and bipartisan negotiations, the final FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House of Representatives today by a 350-69 vote. The bill authorizes $625.1 billion for defense programs and incorporates ideas from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of Congress.
“This legislation isn’t perfect, but I want to commend the people who helped put it together. This bill represents a good faith effort, bipartisan and bicameral, to put the security of America first. It has earned my support,” said Congressman Garamendi, who represents Travis and Air Force bases in Congress. “The brave men and women of our military need to know that our government takes its responsibility to support their missions seriously, and I think that’s accomplished with this Defense bill.”
Defending Vital Third District Missions and Needs
Earlier this year, the Air Force mistakenly issued plans to deactivate the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron, a Reserve Wing responsible for the operation of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. During questioning by Congressman Garamendi during a March 2013 hearing, the Air Force admitted that this was an oversight and that the Department of Defense is prohibited from deactivated the Reserve Wing without explicit Congressional authorization. The NDAA passed today continues to prohibit the early retirement of the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned systems through 2014.
The Global Hawk mission, located at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, California, is a critical component of Beale’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) responsibilities. The Global Hawk is an unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft capable of staying aloft for 30 hours and is used in North Africa, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and Somalia, as well as for humanitarian purposes and emergencies, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident.
“The Global Hawk remains one of our most powerful assets, keeping America informed about activities in remote troubled hotspots without jeopardizing U.S. personnel,” Garamendi said. “It also has a humanitarian function that has saved lives and enabled emergency personnel to respond to crises with accurate science and observational data. I’m glad the NDAA preserves the Global Hawk, and I will continue to be an advocate for its use for as long as it remains the best technology available for its mission.”
The legislation also contains language – that Congressman Garamendi, Ranking Member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, fought for – that authorizes the Coast Guard to exchange 5 C-130H long-range surveillance aircraft with the Air Force and receive 14 surplus C-27J aircraft which will enhance the Coast Guard’s capabilities for long-range surveillance, drug, and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue mission activities. This transfer saves about $600 million.
“Some of these C-27Js will be based at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sacramento,” Congressman Garamendi said. “We’re the second most flood prone region in the nation and we have a dangerous ocean to the west, so having the best possible search and rescue capabilities is welcomed news.”
Combating Sexual Assaults in the Military
The legislation enhances the right of victims of sexual assault to present their case before a lawyer, removes opportunities for perpetrators to escape justice, more clearly articulates appropriate punishments for sex offenders, requires better reporting when superior officers learn about a potential sex crime, cracks down on sexual harassment, and strengthens penalties against retribution for reporting a sexual assault, in addition to dozens of other related reforms.
“American military personnel face enough enemies in the course of their duty; no servicemember should be fearful of a sexual assault from one of their own,” Congressman Garamendi said. “The sexual assault language in the NDAA is a good step forward. More will need to be done, but there is no doubt that servicemembers will be safer once these reforms are implemented. Believe me, there are many Members of this Congress who will be carefully watching to make sure these new guidelines are fully enforced.”
Congressman Garamendi expressed satisfaction that the NDAA does not include new sanctions on Iran, given the diplomatic progress on the nuclear weapons issue in recent months.
“I’ve voted for Iranian sanctions before, and I’ve considered them appropriate before, but we must adapt to changing circumstances. Let’s give diplomacy a chance, and let’s give the President and his team a chance to hold the Iranian government to their word,” he said. “There’s no reason to throw a monkey wrench into this process, which holds the real opportunity to peacefully prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. If the Iranian government reneges on its promises, there’s always time to return with additional sanctions. The NDAA pursues a temperate path on this sensitive issue.”
During the build up to potential U.S. military intervention in Syria, Congressman Garamendi was one of the leading voices in Congress urging restraint before rushing to war and demanding Congressional authorization before an assault. He authored language in the House version of the NDAA that made clear that nothing in the legislation provided the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (an AUMF) in Syria. The resulting delay helped make a diplomatic internationally-backed solution possible.
The NDAA provides authority for the U.S. to assist in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons and requires the Department to develop a cooperative threat reduction strategy to combat weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and North Africa. It also provides $150 million to help our ally Jordan secure their border with Syria. The Jordanian government has been one of our most helpful international partners during the Syrian conflict, as they’ve taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, largely at their own expense.
“We learned in Iraq that rushing into war puts brave servicemembers needlessly in harm’s way. I’m pleased that this didn’t happen in Syria. Our actions showed that diplomacy can be effective and that international norms are strongest when backed by an international coalition,” Garamendi said. “Let’s work together as a world community to make sure that chemical weapons are never again used in Syria or anywhere else. Let’s also make sure that our allies know that when they step up to the plate to provide humanitarian relief, America has their back.”
The NDAA provides $80 billion for operations in Afghanistan, including $6.2 billion in funding for the Afghan National Security Forces and $250 million for the Afghan Infrastructure Fund. Congressman Garamendi has long been a critic of the war in Afghanistan and this week on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal argued again for an expedited end to America’s involvement in the Afghanistan War (click here for video).
“I still consider military support in Afghanistan to be largely wasteful. Fraud and theft are rampant in that country, and the government we are backing is one of the most corrupt governments on the planet. I also fear some of these resources are being siphoned off to our enemies in that country,” said Congressman Garamendi. “The day the last American servicemember returns from Afghanistan will be a day well worth celebrating. For now, I have a lot of questions and will closely monitor U.S. troop commitments as we wind down our presence in Afghanistan.”
Congressman Garamendi is disappointed that the NDAA doesn’t include any new language to strengthen the privacy rights of people living in the United States. Congressman Garamendi has been concerned that the National Security Agency’s bulk data collections of U.S. residents are overbroad and running afoul of Fourth and Fifth American privacy protections.
“There’s been a steady drumbeat of news revealing that the NSA has been snooping in even more parts of the lives of average Americans – online video games being the latest. For this reason, there’s strong bipartisan momentum in Congress to fully investigate and rein in the NSA’s overreach during bulk data collections,” said Congressman Garamendi. “I’m disappointed that language isn’t found in the NDAA, but this is an issue I expect to return in 2014. Those of us who take the Constitution seriously aren’t going away.”
- Authorizes the President’s end strength request for the active forces: 520,000 Army, 323,600 Navy, 190,200 Marine Corps, and 327,600 Air Force;
- Provides $176.5 billion in operation and maintenance funding to help mend some of the damage that has been done to overused equipment and neglected facilities. At a time when military readiness continues to be hurt by mindless cuts through sequestration, this funding is vitally important;
- Establishes a pilot program on investigational treatment of members of the Armed Forces for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder;
- Allows the Services to award constructive service credit for special experience, training or advanced education in certain cyberspace fields;
- Requires that the Department of Defense no later than January 1, 2016 complete all assessments regarding the expansion of positions open to women;
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to review the backlog of cases within the Integrated Disability Evaluation System;
- Establishes a pilot program for family support programs for immediate family members of special operations forces;
- Establishes the requirements for the electronic health records of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs;
- Enhances executive branch authorities to transfer and release GTMO detainees to foreign countries;
- Caps the total amount the Department of Defense can spend on contracted services in fiscal year 2014 at the amount requested by the Department in 2010, approximately $150 billion; and
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report containing an explanation of the legal and policy considerations and approval processes used in determining whether an individual or group of individuals could be the target of a lethal operation or capture operation conducted by the Armed Forces of the United States outside the United States.