Here at the Center/Council we follow Congress and national security issues very closely. So naturally we put together a summary of the important and controversial provisions and amendments from the House Armed Services Committee’s mark of the Defense Authorization bill last week.
A Review of the House Version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Authorization Bill
By a vote of 60 to 1, the House Armed Services Committee approved $553 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, a 4.1% increase over appropriations for FY 2011, along with an additional $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, matching the administration’s request on both counts.
The full House is expected to consider the bill the week of May 23. Many of the provisions listed below may be challenged on the House floor.
(More below the jump)
NUCLEAR WEAPONS-RELATED ISSUES
New START implementation and further nuclear weapons reductions
The bill calls for a report on the Pentagon’s plan for implementing the New START treaty. The plan would include a description of the feasibility and potential cost savings of accelerating New START implementation. The Committee also adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) that would delay force reductions under New START until the Secretaries of Defense and Energy certify that the plan to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and delivery systems is being carried out. The provision also limits reductions in the stockpile of U.S. warheads held in reserve and prevents any unilateral reductions below the limits contained in New START unless several conditions are met. The amendment passed on a party line vote. It was drawn from a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Turner (R-OH) on May 5 known as the New START Implementation Act.
Annual report on nuclear modernization plans
The bill calls for the President to submit an annual report for each of fiscal years 2013 through 2019 on the plan for the modernization of the nuclear weapons stockpile, nuclear weapons complex, and delivery platforms (missiles, submarines, and bombers). The provision was drawn from the New START Implementation Act.
Non-strategic nuclear weapons reductions
The Committee adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Turner (R-OH) to prohibit the reduction, consolidation, or withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe unless either 1) the reduction, consolidation, or withdrawal of these weapons is requested by the government of the host nation; or 2) the President certifies that NATO has decided to support such reduction, consolidation, or withdrawal. The amendment passed on a party line vote. It was drawn from the New START Implementation Act.
Nuclear targeting strategy
The Committee adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Fleming (R-LA) that would prevent any changes to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy unless the President submits a report to Congress describing the implications of such changes and certifying that such changes do not require a retreat from a strategy of targeting the nuclear forces and leadership of an adversary (i.e. counterforce targeting) to a strategy of targeting cities or civilian populations (i.e. counter value targeting). The amendment passed on a party line vote. It was drawn the New START Implementation Act.
National missile defense (i.e. ground based midcourse defense)
The Committee agreed to an increase of $100 million for the ground based midcourse defense system. Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment to eliminate the increase and instead add $100 million to the National Guard and Reserve Equipment account. However, Turner offered a second-degree amendment to retain the $100 million increase for the system by proposing to cut $100 million from a U.S. army reconnaissance and surveillance program. Turner’s second-degree amendment was adopted but it was opposed by every Democrat and two Republicans. A similar amendment to the Sanchez amendment may be offered on the House floor.
Missile defense cooperation with Russia
The Committee adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Turner (R-OH) that would codify the language in the New START treaty resolution of ratification opposing limitations on U.S. missile defense programs and supporting improvements to defensive capabilities. The Committee also adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Brooks (R-AL) that would establish limitations on funds to provide Russia with access to U.S. missile defense technology. The amendments were drawn the New START Implementation Act.
Space based missile defense
The Committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Franks (R-AZ) that would require the Secretary of Defense to spend $8 million to conduct a study examining the technical and operational considerations associated with developing and operating a limited space-based missile defense interceptor capability.
Nuclear material security
The bill fully funds the National Nuclear Security Administration’s request of $2.55 billion for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account. Rep. Sanchez considered offering an amendment at add $20 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (which is part of the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account), but withdrew it because she had yet to receive a necessary waiver from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Sanchez may offer the amendment on the House floor.
Funding for nuclear modernization
The Committee fully funded the National Nuclear Security Administration’s request of $7.63 billion for weapons activities. The Committee 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. The bill includes a provision that would withhold 10% of the request for the Ohio-class replacement program until the Secretary of Defense submits a report summarizing the analysis that supported the Department’s decision to reduce the planned number of missile tubes per submarine to 16.
OTHER CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN THE BILL
F-35 second engine
The bill includes provisions supporting the an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Pentagon has insisted on cutting the program, but in a last ditch effort to keep it alive, manufacturers GE and Rolls Royce have offered to develop the engine for free, absorbing a $100 million annual development cost in the hope that the program will eventually find its way back into the budget or find a new buyer. As a result, the Committee voted 55 to 5 to let GE and Rolls continue building for the next two years. The Pentagon intends to build 2,456 of the aircraft.
Extending the war on terror
The bill expands the war on terror, first authorized three days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The original measure, called an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force’” or AUMF, authorized force against the perpetrators of the attacks or those thatr harbored them. The new provision “affirms” a state of armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces.
War in Afghanistan
The Committee approved full funding of $118 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) considered offering an amendment to cut that funding, but decided to wait until the bill reached the House floor. Other bills to terminate the war in Afghanistan may be turned into amendments and offered.
Relocating aircraft carriers from Virginia to Florida
The committee cut $30 million requested by the Pentagon to move a carrier from Norfolok, Virginia to Mayport, Florida. The Navy argues it is prudent to locate the carriers in more than one port but opponents say the cost of the move is not worth it.
Guantanamo Bay prison
The bill reaffirms Congress’ opposing closing the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, bars the transfer of prisoners to the United States or to foreign countries in most cases (An amendment by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) to lift the ban on trying Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts failed 22 – 38)
Gays in the military
The measure requires that all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and not just the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, certify that the termination of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy barring gays in the military would not harm the military.
Cost of health care in the military
The committee agreed to some increase of fees for active duty and retired military for their health care program called Tricare, but at a smaller level than proposed by the Administration. Health care costs now take about 10% of the Pentagon budget.