Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Statement of GOP Policy on the National Defense Authorization Bill

H.R. 2647, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

House Republicans recognize the responsibility of supporting our military and civilian personnel stationed in the United States and deployed abroad in defense of our country and are committed to ensuring they have all the necessary resources to complete their mission successfully. While some items of concern remain within the legislation, Republicans support the passage of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.
H.R. 2647 authorizes the President’s request for $550.5 billion for the Fiscal Year 2010 base budget of the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy. It also authorizes $130 billion to fund Fiscal Year 2010 war costs for our operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. House Republicans note with strong concern, however, that after taking into consideration the migration into the base budget of items previously funded in the supplemental, the net increase in defense spending is less than 2% of real growth. In a time of war, House Republicans are concerned the funding priorities of the Administration and the Congress are shifting away from providing adequate resources to the Department of Defense, and, in several cases, forcing the Department to make artificial funding choices regarding key capabilities.
House Republicans have consistently supported our military, intelligence, and civilian personnel deployed in harm’s way in defense of our country and have fought efforts by the majority over the last two years to tie the hands of the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief or to put arbitrary restrictions on our commanders on the ground. Therefore, House Republicans are supportive of the President’s proposed strategies for Iraq and Afghanistan. While the implementation plans for those strategies still need to be submitted to Congress, House Republicans are pleased H.R. 2647 maintains support for the President’s redeployment plan which provides flexibility to our commanders and provides for the safety of our combat troops in Iraq, as well as fully resources the outlined counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
However, House Republicans are concerned about several key policy issues contained in the bill. These issues include missile defense, detention policy, military personnel benefits, and Hawaiian labor union provisions.
House Republicans have consistently supported a robust, multi-layered missile defense system capable of protecting our homeland from threats from rogue states, as well as our forward deployed troops and our allies. It is very troubling, therefore, that the majority chose to sustain the Administration’s $1.2 billion cut to missile defense, especially in a year where Iran and North Korea have demonstrated both the capability and the intent to pursue long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs. Both countries are ruled by regimes that, in addition to demonstrating a flagrant disregard for the welfare of their people, have long track records of widespread proliferation. Since both countries are working on missile capabilities which threaten the U.S. homeland, House Republicans are disappointed the Administration and the majority are creating a false choice of increasing funding for theater missile defense, which is an important capability for our forward-deployed troops and allies from shorter-range, at the expense of our homeland defenses. House Republicans are still waiting for the Department of Defense to provide the analysis or new requirements to justify decreasing our missile defense capability funding while the missile threat is demonstrably growing.
H.R. 2647 also is deficient with respect to adequately addressing our nation’s detention policy, which directly impacts the security of our military forces and our homeland. Unless addressed on the floor, the current bill remains silent with respect to the public release of certain detainee photographs, despite the fact General Petraeus and General Odierno have indicated the release would increase the threat posed by our military, intelligence, and civilian personnel operating around the world. House Republicans sincerely hope this deficiency is addressed, per the agreement made during the consideration of the issue at the Committee mark-up.
In addition, House Republicans are concerned with the weak language with respect to the disposition of detainees currently held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The bill fails to include an amendment offered at Committee to prohibit the transfer or release of the detainees into the United States or to require the prior approval of State Legislatures and Governors prior to a transfer or release. This issue has become more important in light of the Administration’s unilateral decision to import alleged terrorist Ahmed Ghailani, implicated in the bombings of our two East African Embassies, into the United States for trial in New York City. Absent any plan from the Administration, House Republicans had hoped the majority would agree Congress should take steps to ensure the Administration does not unilaterally transfer detainees to the United States for continued detention or trial, nor attempt to release detainees into the United States, especially in the absence of meaningful Congressional, State, and local involvement to ensure the safety and security of U.S. residents and our national security.
Many House Republicans are also disappointed that for the second year in a row, the majority failed to address commitments made in their Budget Resolution to address outstanding military personnel benefits for our men and women in uniform and their families, both past and present. House Republicans are disappointed the majority failed to enact a Republican amendment to increase payments to military surviving spouses and children by repealing the offset on the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or the “widow’s tax”, and to provide for concurrent receipt of military retirement pay and Veterans’ Affairs disability benefits for all military retirees. The amendment would have also extended TRICARE to Guard and Reserve members who already receive early retirement.
Finally, House Republicans are strongly oppose the ill-advised attempt in H.R. 2467 to institute a new prevailing wage rate in Guam comparable to wages paid in Hawaii, which would increase wages in Guam by 153%. The impact of the provision, which the Congressional Budget Office scores at $2.1 billion, may benefit labor unions in Hawaii, but it will cost residents of Guam jobs and likely force many small businesses operating in Guam out of business. The majority intends to take funding for BRAC accounts to fund this ill-advised provision, and House Republicans will work with the Senate to remove the provision in conference.
House Republicans remain strongly committed to supporting our military and civilian personnel deployed in defense of our country, as well as their families, and, therefore, support passage of H.R. 2467. Furthermore, House Republicans stand ready to work with the Senate to address a number of key issues of concern in conference, especially in the areas of missile defense, detention policy, and ensuring our troops have the resources they need to complete their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan successfully.
Provided by House Republican Leadership and Armed Services Committee Republicans.

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