The House of Representatives yesterday approved the FY 2014 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2397) by a vote of 315-109. The big headliner was the debate and vote on an amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to curtail the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. The amendment failed 205-217 in an extremely close vote that saw both parties split almost evenly and hold an unusually excellent debate.
Below is a list of amendments that were debated related to nuclear weapons and missile defense.
-Nadler (D-NY), Garamendi (D-CA), and Polis (D-CO) amendment to eliminate the $70 million added by the House Appropriations Committee above the budget request to begin early construction of a ground based midcourse defense (GMD) site on the US East Coast. The amendment failed by a vote of 173-249. For more on the folly rushing the deployment of ground based interceptors on the East Coast, see here.
-Polis (D-CO) amendment to eliminate the $107 million added by the House Appropriations Committee above the budget request to begin advance procurement of booster rockets for 14 ground based interceptors. The amendment failed 141-272. The administration does not plan to start procurement for 14 new Ground Based Interceptors for Fort Greeley, Alaska until FY16, after the Missile Defense Agency actually conducts a successful flight test of the new CE-II kill vehicle, which is not planned until the 1st quarter of FY 2014 at the earliest. The CE-II has never been successfully flight tested. The early procurement of the rocket motors would waste money and capabilities because they are not needed now and not yet proven. Instead of buying more interceptors, money would be better spent fixing the many problems that continue to plague the GMD system.
-Blumenauer (D-OR) and Conyers (D-MI) amendment to reduce research and development funding for the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine replacement program (or SSBN(X)) by 10% below the budget request. The amendment failed 49-372. The House Congressional Submarine Caucus (yes, there is such a thing), came out strongly against the amendment. For an excellent assessment of why the Navy’s current SSBN posture and plans to build 12 replacement submarines are excessive, unaffordable, and unnecessary, Hans Kristensen lays it all out for you here.
-Quigley (D-IL) amendment to limit funds made available to operate and maintain no more than 300 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The amendment failed 142-283. Congress once again displayed its fealty to the nuclear triad. National Defense Magazine recently published a good article on the future of the triad, including the ICBM leg, here.
-Lamborn (R-CO), Lummis (R-WY), Daines (R-MT), and Cramer (R-ND) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to conduct an environmental impact study on ICBM sites. The amendment was approved by voice vote.
-Rogers (R-AL) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to implement the nuclear weapons reductions required by New START. The amendment was approved by voice vote. The amendment mirrors a similar provision that House Republicans included in the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. As we’ve noted time and time again, the Republican leadership of the House Armed Services Committee has been on a fanatical mission to block implementation of New START since it entered into force in February 2011.
New START continues to strengthen US security. At a May 2013 House Armed Services Committee hearing, STRATCOM Commander Gen. Robert Kehler stated that New START “is a very good thing…and is certainly in our national interest.” The Pentagon is currently in the process of studying the most efficient way to meet the New START limits by 2018. The services are assessing various force structure alternatives to implement the treaty. According to the Pentagon, a final decision on what the New START force structure will look like will be made by the end of 2013. Constraints on New START implementation would infringe on the Pentagon’s flexibility to implement the treaty in the most cost-effective manner, perhaps even causing the United States to miss the treaty’s 2018 implementation deadline, which would be unconstitutional and likely prompt Russia to rethink its own commitment to the treaty.
-Turner (R-OH) and Rogers (R-AL) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to reduce strategic delivery systems in contravention of section 303(b) of the Arms Control and Disarmament Act. The amendment was approved by voice vote. The effect of the amendment would be to prohibit any nuclear weapons reductions that occur outside a legally-binding treaty or a Congressional executive agreement. This would eliminate options for reductions that previous Presidents have used to set US nuclear force levels. Past Presidents, especially Republican Chief Executives, have adjusted the size of the nuclear arsenal both with and without formal treaties or executive agreements.
-Brooks (R-AL) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to implement or execute any agreement with the Russian concerning the missiles defenses of the United States. The amendment was approved by voice vote. Two words: Secret Deal!!