On December 12 the Senate and House Armed Services Committees filed the Conference report on the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Congress is expected to send the measure to the President’s desk before the end of the year.
We’ll have a more comprehensive summary out soon, but our early verdict on the bill’s nuclear weapons policy and missile defense provisions is that Senate and House conferees deserve credit for responsibly bridging the differences between the two versions of the bill.
The original House version of the defense bill (H.R. 1540) included 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. The White House threatened to veto the final bill if it included such constraints. You can read our full analysis of the House version of the bill here.
In contrast the Senate bill (S. 1253) contained a number of reporting requirements on nuclear policy issues, but it does not impose policy or funding limitations. You can read our full analysis of the Senate versions of the bill here and here.
The Conference Committee report largely follows in the footsteps of the Senate bill. It requires a number of reports and includes several Sense of Congress provisions, but it eliminates or significantly scales back the objectionable House provisions without compromising Congress’ important oversight responsibilities over U.S. nuclear policy.
You can read the longer analysis here.