HASC Member John Garamendi Votes in Favor of NDAA Conference Report Despite Reservations
Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted in favor of final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016. This annual bill provides the authority and direction for all United States military enterprises. It passed by a bipartisan 270-156 vote.
“I voted for this authorization because it supports the critical work that our servicemen and women do around the world every day to keep this country safe,” Garamendi explained. “It also strengthens the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission at Beale Air Force Base and the air mobility, aerial refueling, and aeromedical evacuation missions at Travis Air Force Base by funding critical upgrades and maintenance programs for all of the platforms positioned at these bases, including the U-2 Dragon Lady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy, and C-17 Globemaster.”
Garamendi continued, “This is certainly not a perfect bill, but it is a significant improvement over the bill I voted against in the spring. It improves how we address sexual assault in the military and makes sure that the critical Maritime Security Program remains strong. I am especially pleased that many of the onerous restrictions that the House initially put on our country’s nuclear nonproliferation programs, nuclear security programs, and efforts to implement nuclear treaties were removed during the conference process. ”
For example, Congressman Garamendi successfully pushed for the removal of a provision that prohibited further implementation of the New START nuclear agreement with Russia. This treaty is critical to US national security because it allows the United States to verify that Russia is reducing its deployed nuclear weapons according to an agreed timeline. Halting participation in this critical agreement would have cut off access to Russian nuclear weapons sites and severely limited the United States’ ability to understand the threat Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal poses to the United States and its allies.
In addition, some of the Senate’s attempts to insert changes that would significantly harm our servicemembers were kept out of the final bill, including an attempt to privatize the commissary system and a drastic cut to the basic allowance for housing (BAH) for married and cohabitating servicemembers.
Despite these improvements, Congressman Garamendi still has a number of concerns with the bill. The bill continues to pour billions of dollars into failed projects that are severely over-budget, far past their deadlines, and extremely unreliable such as the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and the East Coast missile defense site.
The bill also wastes an additional $530 million on the Syria Train & Equip program, which only managed to train 60 Syrian fighters even though the Department of Defense sunk hundreds of million dollars into it. Earlier this month, General Lloyd Austin, the commander of United States Central Command admitted that only “four or five” of those 60 fighters remain, a clear indication that this program has failed.
In addition to this wasteful spending, the conference report continues to place significant roadblocks to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities, a facility that runs counter to American values and places our national security in jeopardy by providing our adversaries with a powerful propaganda tool.
Congressman Garamendi also remains deeply concerned about the use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) emergency war funding to get around the Budget Control Act’s discretionary spending caps. This $89.2 billion fund is not just being used to fund emergency overseas operations, including $3.8 billion to support the Afghan National Security Forces, $715 million for the Iraq Train & Equip program, and $530 million for the Syria Train & Equip program. It also includes $38.3 billion that are being used to fund long-term national security priorities that are not war-related. This hampers the military’s ability to plan for the future and effectively carry out critical missions and programs.
“The budget games which the Republican majority continues to play with the defense budget contribute to significant uncertainty to the mission, our service members, and their families. Fortunately, this bill includes a provision to fix the funding gimmicks in our national defense if Congress can come to a wider budget agreement and finally stop funding from crisis to crisis. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to properly fund all our nation’s top priorities, from defense to infrastructure to education,” Garamendi said.