EXPERTS REACT TO NDAA PASSAGE IN THE HOUSEWashington DC – May 22, 2014 – News Release – The House of Representatives earlier today approved the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435). However, despite a number of contentious issues facing Congress, there were only eleven recorded votes on the bill after many amendments were disallowed.
“The Rules Committee has refused to allow amendments that could potentially damage the ideological trajectory determined by House leadership and effectively created a guided democracy,” said Executive Director John Isaacs. “The Rules Committee forced Members to weaken amendments, only permitted recorded votes on their ‘winning’ amendments and refused to allow votes on amendments they thought could not be controlled.”
“The failure to allow an up or down vote on one of the most pressing defense issues, namely continuing to put U.S. servicemen and women in harm’s way in a decade old war in Afghanistan, fundamentally rejects the responsibility placed on the Congress by the Constitution,” added Isaacs.
On cost-saving efforts at the Pentagon, experts said:
“Despite the House rejecting many of the Pentagon’s proposed cost-saving measures, designed to enhance U.S. security by focusing on 21st century threats, the House did pass some measures that will reduce costs,” said Laicie Heeley, Director of Middle East and Defense Programs.
By voice vote, the House passed an amendment to limit the war funding account, which has effectively become a slush fund as the wars draw down, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). “Codification of criteria may prevent the OCO account from becoming an even larger slush fund for Congressional pork and pet projects,” added Heeley. “With the war in Iraq over and operations in Afghanistan coming to a close, the OCO account should be steadily reduced to zero, with any essential funding moved back into the base budget.”
In two voice votes, the House permitted the reduction through attrition of some 33 general and flag officer positions and required a report on the auditability of the Pentagon. “For decades, what has been termed ‘star creep’ has pushed up costs at the Pentagon, added layers to the bureaucracy and limited flexibility to address the 21st security landscape,” noted Heeley.
On nuclear issues, experts noted:
The most damaging amendment passed by the House would mortally wound the New START treaty, which caps the number of Russian nuclear weapons that could be targeted at the United States and allows U.S. inspectors to verify the size and composition of these Russian weapons.
“The House Republican majority has sought to stymie implementation of New START since it entered into force in 2011,” said Kingston Reif, Director of Nuclear Non-proliferation Programs. “The crisis in Ukraine is not a good reason to undermine New START, which makes the world safer. In fact, the treaty is now more valuable than ever.”
An approved amendment offered by Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to annually update a report on the cost over ten years of U.S. nuclear forces.
“Nuclear weapons are a significant weight on the U.S. national security budget. Over the next thirty years the United States could spend more than a trillion dollars to maintain and rebuild the existing nuclear triad,” said Reif. “In an era of tight budgets, Congress needs accurate cost data and projections to judge the need for and affordability of current U.S. nuclear weapons spending plans.”
####The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a Washington-based non-profit think tank working to reduce the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled across the globe, increase international nonproliferation programs targeted at preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism, redirect U.S. military spending to address 21st century security threats and halt the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons. www.armscontrolcenter.org