U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) voted today in support of the conference report on H.R. 2647, the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which will provide a pay raise for service members, support military families and troops in the field and make responsible investments in our national defense to keep us safe. The legislation also included provisions to strengthen law enforcement against hate crimes. The conference report passed the House by a vote of 281 to 146 and must now clear the Senate before it is signed into law.
"This year's National Defense Authorization Act makes the vital investments we need to protect our nation and our troops in the field," said Larsen. "This legislation will increase military pay by 3.4% and improve support for service members and their families."
Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and President Barack Obama called on Congress to eliminate many weapons programs that were over-budget and behind schedule. The National Defense Authorization Act incorporates almost all of their recommendations.
"President Obama called on Congress to make tough decisions to improve our national security, and this bill is an important step towards reforming our defense budget," said Larsen. "This bill cancels expensive weapons programs that don't make us safer and invests in urgently needed equipment and technology."
The Defense Authorization bill will:
* Provide a 3.4% pay raise for all service members;
* Help restore military readiness with strong investments in our Armed Services;
* Focus on Afghanistan and on the redeployment from Iraq; and
* Require the Department of Defense to submit an annual report to Congress outlining its electronic warfare strategy, a provision sponsored by Rep. Larsen.
In addition, the legislation also includes provisions to broaden the hate crime definition to include crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability, and authorize the Department of Justice to assist local law enforcement officials with hate crime prosecutions.
"I strongly believe that we need to provide equal protections against hate motivated crimes to all Americans. We also need to provide our local law enforcement officials with the resources and tools they need to prosecute hate crimes" said Larsen. "Right now, state and local governments are on their own when it comes to prosecuting even the most violent crimes. But if those governments are unwilling or unable to prosecute hate crimes -- and if the Justice Department believes justice will not be served -- this law will let the federal authorities lend a hand to state and local authorities."
The hate crimes provisions included in the bill will authorize $5 million each for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 for the Justice Department to provide one year grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement for expenses relating to the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
"The passage of hate crimes legislation will ensure that our local law enforcement agencies have the resources to keep our community safe and deliver justice to victims that are targets of hate," said Larsen.