by Kingston Reif [contact information]
House Armed Services Committee Gone Wild -- Again
On May 9 the House Armed Services Committee approved the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) by a vote of 56-5. The bill provides $554 billion for national defense (function 050). This is an increase of approximately $4 billion above the President's request and $8 billion above the Budget Control Act's FY 2013 cap on 050 spending. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the House floor next week.
If you thought last year’s version of the bill was bad, this year’s iteration includes a number of proposed funding proposals and policy provisions on nuclear weapons and missile defense that are even more extreme. The purpose of these proposals, spearheaded primarily by Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), is to:
- constrain and perhaps even block the Pentagon’s ability to implement the New START treaty;
- prevent the President and senior military leaders from making changes to U.S. nuclear posture beyond those outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and agreed to in the New START treaty; and
- drastically increase spending on nuclear weapons programs and national missile defense
Due to opposition in the Senate, the final version of last year’s bill either eliminated or significantly watered down the objectionable House provisions without compromising Congress’ important oversight responsibilities over U.S. nuclear policy. Expect the Senate to raise similar objections again this year, as the latest proposals would greatly undermine U.S. national and economic security.
House Republican efforts to constrain the President’s bipartisan agenda to reduce the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal are unfortunately consistent with previous such GOP attempts to restrict Democratic Presidents since the end of the Cold War. Then, as now, such partisan obstruction threatens to prevent U.S. military leaders from taking common sense steps to put America’s nuclear posture on a post-Cold War footing.
In addition, while Republicans decry the national debt and denounce unnecessary spending, the committee is moving in the opposite direction by adding close to $4 billion for national defense above the administration's request and $8 above the Budget Control act cap, much of it for programs the Pentagon doesn’t want or need now.
Below is a summary of the funding proposals and policy provisions that were debated at the full Committee mark. By unofficial count, a total of 18 amendments were offered on strategic forces issues, 11 of which were decided were decided by roll call votes.
Summary of Amendments
-Rep. Turner (R-OH) amendment #47 authorizing treatment of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee as Pentagon military construction projects (they are currently funded by the National Nuclear Security administration), approved 36-25.
-Second Turner (R-OH) amendment #46 requiring construction of the CMRR by 2024, authorizing $160 million in prior-year funds to continue design of the facility, and prohibiting the use of funds to maintain plutonium capabilities that does not include achieving full operational capability for the CMRR by 2024, approved 38-24. Three Democrats voted aye: Heinrich (NM), Kissell (NC) and Owens (NY).
-Committee adopts as part of an en bloc package an amendment offered by Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) that adds $27 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
-Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) amendment #84 to block funding included in the Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark for an East Coast missile defense site by the end of 2015, failed 29-33.
-Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) amendment #147 to eliminate an additional $358 million included in the Chairman’s mark for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System, failed 26-36.
-Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) amendment #153 to cut an additional $324 million above the requested level included in the Chairman’s mark for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities account, failed 23-39.
-Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) amendment #003 to restrict the ability of the President to sign a future code of conduct in outer space without prior Congressional approval, approved 37-25.
-Rep. Turner (R-OH) amendment #141 on the strategic force posture of the United States approved 34-28. The amendment was 48 pages and is apparently identical to a bill he introduced earlier this year, H.R. 4178. Among other things the amendment would:
- Delay (and perhaps even block) implementation of the New START treaty if funding for nuclear weapons activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and strategic delivery system modernization at the Pentagon does not meet the specific levels outlined in the Section 1251 report as proposed in the context of the New START treaty. The report calls for $88 billion in spending on NNSA weapons activities and $125 billion to sustain US nuclear delivery systems between FY 2012 and FY 2021.
- Prohibit any future changes to US nuclear posture and force levels made pursuant to the ongoing NPR Implementation study unless the resources outlined in the 1251 report are requested and appropriated and the sequestration mechanism under the Budget Control Act is overturned.
- Prevent the reduction of nuclear warheads on ICBMs to a single warhead unless the President certifies in writing to the congressional defense committees that the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both also carrying out a similar reduction.
-Rep. Johnson (D-GA) amendment #197 requiring reports from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary on whether the reductions required by the New START treaty remain in the national security interests of the United States, failed 27-35.
-Rep. Andrews (D-NJ) amendment #127 to delete provisions included in the Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark reducing health and safety standards at nuclear weapons facilities, failed 27-35.
-Rep. Franks (R-AZ) amendment #43 to study the potential redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and more conventional weapons in East Asia, approved 32-26.
-Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) amendment #209 to strike restrictions included in the Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, failed 26-33.
-By voice vote, the committee rejected four amendments: Sanchez #152 striking restrictions included in the Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark on funding for the European Phased Adaptive Approach (missile defense in Europe); Sanchez #180 to bar procurement of the Capability Enhancement-II ground based interceptor until the interceptor is successfully flight tested; Sanchez #211 to eliminate provisions included in the Strategic Force Subcommittee mark reducing health and safety standards at nuclear weapons facilities; and Sanchez #150 requiring an independent report on alternatives to maintaining extended nuclear deterrence in Europe, including the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
Other amendments of interest
-Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) amendment to strike Section 1216 requiring a longer-term deployment of troops in Afghanistan appears to have lost by a vote of 27-34 (seeking confirmation).
-Rep. Palazzo (R-MS) amendment prohibiting gay marriages on military bases approved 37-24.
-Rep. Wittman (R-VA) amendment to ban new rounds of base closings (BRAC) or even plan for base closing approved 44-18.
-Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) amendment to direct the Pentagon to provide battle-ready dates for all versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by the end of the year was approved by voice vote as an alternative to an Akin (R-MO) to withhold half of the F-35 procurement funds in Fiscal Year 2013 until the Pentagon provides an initial operational capability.
-Rep. Speier (D-CA) amendment to require a General Accountability Office report on the Littoral Combat Ship, including when the service learned of cracks and corrosion, was approved.
-Rep. Conaway (R-TX) amendment to exempt the Defense Department from alternative fuel procurement requirements approved 36-25.
Kingston Reif is the Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where his work focuses on arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear weapons, and preventing nuclear terrorism. He has published letters and articles on nuclear weapons policy in such venues as the Washington Post, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Survival, Defense News, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.