by Kingston Reif and Laicie Heeley
On June 16 the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1253). The committee approved $682.5 billion, including $553 billion for the Pentagon base budget, $117.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18.1 billion for Department of Energy nuclear programs. The committee cut about $6.4 billion from the President’s budget request, less than the $9 billion cut approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Below is a review and analysis of the key provisions in the bill.
Nuclear Weapons Policy
The House version of the defense bill (H.R. 1540) includes many objectionable limitations on nuclear and missile defense policy matters that would 1) constrain the Pentagon’s ability to implement the New START treaty and 2) undercut the Constitutional authority of the President and senior military leaders to determine U.S. nuclear force structure and engage in discussions with the Russians on missile defense cooperation. See our full analysis of H.R. 1540 here.
The Senate bill contains a number of reporting requirements on nuclear policy issues, but it does not impose policy or funding limitations. The Committee significantly watered down the objectionable House provisions without compromising Congress’ important oversight responsibilities over U.S. nuclear policy.
I. New START implementation and further nuclear weapons reductions
Section 1047 requires the President to submit a net assessment to the congressional defense committees to support any proposal to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile below the numbers in the New START Treaty or to reduce the number of weapons in reserve.
Comment: Unlike Section 1055 of the House bill, which would delay force reductions under New START and make further changes to U.S. nuclear force levels contingent on several onerous conditions, the Senate bill does not infringe upon the Pentagon’s flexibility to implement New START or subject future proposals to change U.S. nuclear force levels to rigid preconditions. Section 1055 is similar to Section 1097 of the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6523). Section 1097 establishes a Sense of Congress that future nuclear force reductions below the levels in the New START treaty should be accompanied by a thorough analysis of the strategic environment and undertaken only if they strengthen U.S. security and continue to allow the U.S. to reassure its allies and partners.
II. Nuclear targeting strategy
Section 1075 directs the President to submit a report describing any new Nuclear Employment Strategy (i.e. targeting strategy) if and when such a strategy is issued. It also establishes a Sense of Congress that any changes to nuclear targeting strategy should support U.S. deterrence and related goals.
Comment: Unlike Section 1056 of the House bill, which would constrain the President’s ability to make changes to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy, the Senate bill protects the ability of the President and senior military leadership to determine the optimum targeting doctrine for U.S. national security.
III. National missile defense (i.e. ground based midcourse defense in Alaska and California)
S. 1253 fully funds the FY 2012 request of $1.16 billion for the ground based midcourse defense system. Section 232 establishes a Sense of Congress concerning the approach the Missile Defense Agency should take in correcting the problem encountered in the December 2010 flight-test failure of the ground-based midcourse defense system, and requires the Secretary of Defense to submit two reports on the plans and progress for achieving that correction. The Committee expressed its deep concern about the two recent test failures of the system. The Committee supports the Missile Defense Agency’s decision to delay production of new kill vehicles until the problems that caused the most recent test failures are solved. The Committee also cited the Missile Defense Agency’s belief that it has sufficient funds planned and available in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to formulate and implement the corrective action plan for the flight-test failure problem, and that additional funding in fiscal year 2012 would not accelerate that corrective process.
Comment: Unlike the House version of the bill, which includes a $100 million increase from the FY2012 request for the ground based midcourse defense system, the Senate bill notes that additional funding is not necessary at this time and calls for greater oversight over the system.
IV. Missile defense cooperation with Russia
Section 233 establishes a Sense of Congress in support of efforts of the United States to pursue missile defense cooperation with Russia that would enhance the security of the United States, its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, and Russia, in a manner that is reciprocal and does not limit U.S. missile defense capabilities. The provision also requires the President to submit a report on the status of efforts to agree on such cooperation, including steps to safeguard classified U.S. information.
Comment: Unlike Sections 1228 and 1229 of the House bill, which would establish limitations on funds to provide Russia with access to U.S. missile defense technology such as early warning data and in general expressed skepticism toward the benefits of missile defense cooperation with Russia, the Senate bill notes that for more than a decade, the United States has been pursuing and discussing cooperation with Russia on shared early warning and ballistic missile defense issues. The Committee also stated “that missile defense cooperation with Russia could enhance the security of the United States, and could send a strong signal to Iran that the United States and Russia are joined in their opposition of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.” This marks the second year in a row that the Committee has voiced its support for cooperative missile defense efforts with Russia. Section 221 of the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act contains a Sense of Congress “to support the efforts of the United States Government and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to pursue cooperation with the Russian Federation on ballistic missile defense relative to Iranian missile threats.” The language in the bill is also in keeping with the recommendations of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its 2009 final report, the Commission stated: “opportunities for missile defense cooperation with Russia should be further explored.”
V. Reports on U.S. nuclear delivery systems and an accounting of the nuclear weapons stockpile
Section 1073 would direct the Secretary of Defense in each odd-numbered year, beginning in 2013, to conduct an assessment of the safety, security, reliability, sustainability, performance, and military effectiveness of each type of U.S. platform for the delivery of nuclear weapons and of the nuclear command and control system. Section 1074 would direct the Secretary of Defense to submit an annual report setting forth an accounting of the nuclear weapons in the stockpile, including the number of weapons in the deployed and non-deployed stockpiles and each category of non-deployed weapons.
VI. Nuclear material security
S. 1253 authorizes $2.547 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, a reduction of a miniscule $2.8 million below the FY 2012 request.
VII. Funding for nuclear modernization
S. 1253 authorizes $7.628 billion for he National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities account, a reduction of a miniscule $1 million below the FY 2012 request. The bill also approved the Defense Department’s research and development requests of $1.07 billion for the Ohio-class submarine replacement program, $197 million for a new long-range, nuclear-capable bomber, and $9.93 million for a new air launched nuclear cruise missile.
I. Military pay and benefits
The bill authorizes a $1.6 billion pay raise across the board for all members of the armed services, consistent with the President’s request. It does not prohibit TRICARE Prime enrollment fee increases in FY 2012, but limits annual increases of the fee to the amount equal to the percentage of increase in retired pay beginning October 1, 2012.
II. Special Operations Command
S. 1253 authorizes a 6 percent increase above FY 2011 levels for Special Operations Command, a total of $10.4 billion. It also extends the authority of U.S. Special Operations Forces to provide support to ongoing operations through FY 2017. In addition, the bill creates a statutory basis for detaining terrorist suspects indefinitely and gives the Secretary of Defense final responsibility for any decision to release or transfer prisoners.
III. Guantanamo Bay
The bill does not prohibit the transfer of detainees to existing facilities in the United States for trials. It does set limitations on the transfer of detainees to other countries “to ensure that all possible steps have been taken” so they do not return to the battlefield.
IV. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
The bill fully funds both the Navy and Air Force versions of the F-35. The Marine Corps variant remains on probation. Although the program has been fully funded, the requires the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the low-rate initial production contract for lot 5 of the F-35 is a fixed price contract and that the contractor, Lockheed Martin, absorb 100 percent of costs above the target cost.
In addition, the bill requires implementation of the recommendations of a recent congressionally mandated report on corrosion control on both the F-22 and F-35 “to ensure that the Department addresses corrosion issues that can affect the affordability and suitability of weapon systems throughout their life cycles.”
V. F-35 Extra Engine
The Senate bill does not contain funding for the F-35 extra engine. Further, it excludes a provision, that appeared in the House version, that would allow the engine’s manufacturers to continue work on their own dime. This provision could reappear on the Senate floor.
S. 1253 requires the establishment of benchmarks for progress in transferring security in Afghanistan to the country’s police and military forces. It also requires defense officials to brief Congress twice a year. Additionally, the bill provides $400 million for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan, provides $400 million for the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, and extends the authority of the Defense Department to support the reintegration of former insurgent fighters into Afghan society.
VII. Additional Cuts
Among others, the bill cuts these “troubled, wasteful or unnecessary” programs:
– Over $1 billion for military construction and family housing projects. – $451.9 million for the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) low rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft due to program delays. – $200.0 million of $775.8 million for the Joint Tactical Radio System due to program delays with the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) and Airborne, Maritime/Fixed (AMF) radios. – $406.6 million for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), the amount of the budget request, in order to obtain a less-costly option for the program.
The bill also requires the Department of the Navy to restructure plans to replace the cancelled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle System and complete analysis of alternatives to the Amphibious Combat Vehicle before the onset of a Marine Personnel Carrier acquisition program.
It is not clear when the Senate will take up the defense bill. It is also not clear whether Republicans will seek to offer amendments similar to the provisions adopted by the House. Senator Jon Kyl introduced his own version of the New START Implementation Act as S. 1097 on May 26, 2011. Rep. Michael Turner’s (R-OH) version of this bill served as the basis for the harmful nuclear policy amendments that were adopted by the House. Sen. Kyl could offer provisions of this bill as individual amendments during Senate floor consideration of the defense bill.