HASC Member John Garamendi’s Statement on National Defense Authorization Act Committee Markup
Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 out of Committee and move it to the House Floor. This annual bill sets policy for the Department of Defense and provides the authority and direction for the United States military. The House Armed Services Committee adopted the bill by a 60-2 vote.
“I voted for this defense bill because it makes some good policy adjustments on key issues. It requires the Pentagon to make stronger justification for its nuclear weapons programs, and fully funds replacing the Hydrant Fuel System at Travis Air Force Base in my district, which is critical for the refueling missions based there.
However, I am deeply concerned about the funding for our troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. This bill shortchanges our troops in the region. It is intentionally structured so that funding for America’s battle against ISIS will run out of money next spring. This will force the next president and the next Congress to produce a high-stakes supplemental funding bill to keep our troops in the field. It’s not the full-year funding our troops deserve. I do not believe this is a responsible approach, and I will work my hardest to improve this bill on the House floor while maintaining the positive developments we won in committee.”
The bill includes language authored by Congressman Garamendi to require the Department of Defense to provide further justification for several planned nuclear weapons programs, including a new nuclear cruise missile. Two of Garamendi’s amendments were also adopted: one would strengthen the requirement to conduct a study on creating a backup to GPS infrastructure. GPS is a single point of failure for both military operations and daily civilian life. The other amendment authorizes a pilot program for acquisition of innovative technologies for cybersecurity and other purposes. The bill also contains a 2.1% pay raise for servicemembers.
This initial version of the bill also contains several problematic elements. In addition to shortchanging our troops overseas, the bill would:
· Increase nuclear weapons spending by $347 million over and above what President Obama has requested, thus further accelerating the new, trillion-dollar nuclear arms race.
· Maintain funding for the “train and equip” programs in Iraq and Syria. These programs do not have the proper oversight and are legally dubious without an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (declaration of war), which has not been considered by Congress despite nearly two years of fighting against ISIS.
· Force the problematic and controversial detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to remain open, continuing to give our adversaries overseas a powerful tool for their propaganda efforts.
Congressman Garamendi remains deeply concerned about the nuclear weapons policy in the bill, and the money allocated to fund it.
“The bloated nuclear weapons policy in this NDAA reminds me of the Cold War era. In the current geopolitical environment, new nuclear weapons systems such as a long-range standoff cruise missile risk provoking a nuclear arms race. These weapons are a relic of a Cold War posture that we no longer need. In the current environment, they are destabilizing and pose a significant risk of global escalation. At the very least, I believe the Department of Defense should be required to fully justify why these weapons are needed and explain to the public how they enhance, rather than jeopardize, our national security. By some estimates, we could spend a trillion dollars over the next few decades on these systems. I believe this money could be better spent on other military and civilian priorities, and I will continue to push for these changes as the bill moves forward.”