Following Inclusion of Important Amendments, Congressman Garamendi Votes to Advance NDAA

Garamendi speaks on House floor about sensible amendment to reduce wasteful spending in Afghanistan
Garamendi speaks on House floor about sensible amendment to reduce wasteful spending in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), the son of a World War II Major and a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today voted for the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), because it supports men and women who work to defend our nation, and because it was improved during the amendments process. It passed with a 315-107 vote.

Video of the Congressman speaking on the House floor about his amendment to reduce wasteful spending in Afghanistan is available here.

The Congressman’s district includes Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, which carries out a mobility mission, and Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, which conducts Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).

“Last week, I said I hoped I’d be able to vote for the NDAA once we voted on amendments. This is by no means perfect legislation, but it is a lot better than what came out of committee, and it warrants my support,” said Congressman Garamendi. “The NDAA supports service members, sustains the vital missions at Travis and Beale Air Force bases, and includes language that will help bring our troops home and prevent us from needlessly wasting billions of dollars in Afghanistan.”

Last week, Garamendi voted against the version of the NDAA that passed out of committee because of excessive wasteful spending in the bill that misallocated taxpayer dollars. However, during the amendments process on the House floor, Congress adopted an amendment authored by Congressman Garamendi that withholds $2.6 billion in additional funding for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) for the acquisition of aircraft, vehicles and other equipment until the Secretary of Defense submits a report to Congress. That report must confirm when these systems would be delivered, evaluate the capabilities of the ANSF to operate and maintain these systems, and assess the impact of such acquisitions on the future U.S. costs of funding the ANSF. This was one of several amendments adopted that reduced waste in the NDAA.

Congress also adopted an amendment authored by Garamendi, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. With this amendment, any attempt to postpone the deadline now requires a specific authorization from Congress.

“It’s time to end the longest war in American history. It’s time for some nation building at home,” Garamendi said.

 “I remain dissatisfied with portions of this legislation, including the funding of the unproven and unnecessary East Coast missile defense program, the pointless expansion of our nuclear arsenal, and the dangerous inclusion of ambiguous language related to indefinite detention on U.S. soil,” Garamendi continued. “I have been working on these issues for years and will continue forging the bipartisan coalition we’ll need to change course.”

Congressman Garamendi’s office has been actively involved in shaping the NDAA. Beyond the previously mentioned Afghanistan amendment and support for the Global Hawk Block 30 program, a number of other amendments authored by Garamendi are in the bill, including:

·         Requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on estimated U.S. force levels in Afghanistan post-2014 and the costs of these operations through 2020;

·         Making clear that the President does not have any authority to engage in military actions in Syria without the consent of Congress;

·         Urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to provide analysis of alternatives to certain nuclear weapons systems life extension programs and nuclear facilities that have far exceeded their original cost-estimates;

·         Supporting our nation’s move to energy independence; and

·         Expressing the importance of the merchant marine to our national defense.

Combating Sexual Assault in the Military

The Department of Defense estimates that there were 26,000 incidences of rape or sexual assault in the military in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010.

Congressman Garamendi said, “This legislation improves our nation’s response to the epidemic of rape and sexual assaults in the U.S. military. However, I was very disappointed that House Republican leadership refused to let us vote on Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s amendment that would have empowered an independent body to investigate military sexual assaults – a system already in place in Israel, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. Justice improved sometimes still means justice denied, and I will continue working with my colleagues to fix this blemish on our nation.”

Advocating for Northern California

The NDAA will continue the Global Hawk Block 30 program, located at Beale Air Force Base, through the end of 2016. The Global Hawk is an unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft that is a major component of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) program. Capable of staying aloft for 30 hours, three times longer than the U2, the Global Hawk 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.

It also includes an amendment authored by Garamendi that calls on the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to Congress on power and energy research associated with the grid conducted at University Affiliated Research Centers – increasingly important issues as military bases are looking to maximize their energy efficiency and security.

“My job is made a little easier knowing I represent two Air Force bases with missions that are absolutely essential to national security. Air mobility and ISR are funded in the NDAA, and support for service members is strong,” Garamendi said.

Supporting Smart Investments and Smart Cuts

Congressman Garamendi, who is the Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, authored an amendment that recognizes the crucial role of the U.S. Merchant Marine in our national security. The amendment expresses the sense of Congress that American shipbuilding is a critical component of our national defense and that the Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Navy, should pursue the most cost-effective means of recapitalizing the Ready Reserve Fleet.

Supporting an End to the Afghanistan War and the Judicious Use of Force

The Afghanistan War, the longest American war in history, is winding down, but this process remains overly opaque. Garamendi offered an amendment requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on estimated U.S. force levels and on the costs of U.S. operations for each year from Fiscal Year 2015-2020. This amendment was adopted by the Committee. The previously referenced amendments to bring the war to a close by 2014 and to require the Secretary of Defense to prove that $2.6 billion in additional funding for the Afghan National Security Forces would not be wasted were adopted on the House floor.

“Every dollar spent in wars of choice is a dollar we can’t invest in reducing the VA claims backlog, prudent intelligence, vital infrastructure, support for American families, or deficit reduction,” said Garamendi. “It’s our job to be wise stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and these amendments bring us closer to that goal.”

Indefinite Detention on U.S. Soil

Congressman Garamendi is a leader in the fight to remove ambiguous language from the NDAA that could permit someone – including a U.S. citizen – detained on U.S. soil to be indefinitely detained without trial if they are suspected of providing financial support to terrorism, in direct violation of our Fourth Amendment right to due process. While the Obama Administration has made it very clear that they do not interpret the language in this way, Garamendi believes it is dangerous to keep this ambiguous language on the books. The amendment authored by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) to remove this language failed to pass by a 200-226 vote, 18 more votes than last year’s amendment.

“We lost the battle for unambiguous due process today, but we’re winning the war,” Congressman Garamendi said. “With every passing year, through Member-to-Member outreach and support from groups across the political spectrum, we’re building the bipartisan coalition we’ll need. We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop until we fix the NDAA.”