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An Update from Washington- The House Passes the National Defense Authorization Act

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Last week, I wrote about the Armed Services Committee's work and passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) , which authorizes defense spending in Fiscal Year 2011. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to vote against House-passage of the NDAA because of the inclusion of an amendment that would have repealed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy. Don't Ask, Don't Tell bars openly gay men and women from serving in the military. The "Murphy Amendment", which allowed for the repeal of DADT, passed 234 - 194 and the NDAA passed by 229 -- 186 margin. I voted against both.

It is unfortunate that the good, bipartisan work of the Armed Services Committee on the NDAA was marred by such a contentious amendment. Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton and Ranking Member Buck McKeon heeded the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chose not to address Don't Ask, Don't Tell during our committee debate, and the end product was a bill that passed unanimously out of our committee. Sadly, the full House did not follow the Armed Services Committee's model for bipartisanship and I had no choice but to vote against a bill which contained such a flawed amendment.

Now is not the time to address DADT. A 17-year old policy should not be changed overnight, especially while we are fighting two wars overseas. Furthermore, Secretary Gates and the service chiefs of our four military branches would prefer to complete a comprehensive review of ending DADT before agreeing to any change in existing law. That review is already under way and will be completed by December 1st of this year. I see no reason for Congress to jump ahead of schedule and consider a change in military policy before the review is finished.

Last week's House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act is only one step in the process. The Senate must conclude its work before a conference committee. I hope this amendment is stripped during House and Senate negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act.

Battle over tanker contract continues

One of the amendments offered during the debate on the Defense Authorization pertained directly to the Air Force's KC-45 tanker contract. As you may know, the KC-45 aerial refueling tanker is one of the largest contracts awarded by the Department of Defense and the process of granting the contract had dragged on for nearly 10 years. If awarded the estimated $35 billion contract, EADS North America would build the tanker in Mobile, creating thousands of jobs in Alabama and an estimated 48,000 jobs around the country.

The amendment in question initially called for the Department of Defense to add the cost of any foreign subsidy to the overall pricetag for the contract, which would have put EADS at a tremendous disadvantage. More importantly, the amendment was deeply flawed and could have negative international trade ramifications. In short, the amendment was designed to give one bidder an advantage in winning the contract.

Fortunately, the amendment as initially written was deemed unworkable and unfeasible by the three committees who have jurisdiction over its substance. The supporters of the amendment were forced to change the language, making it much less harmful, and frankly, powerless. The edited amendment passed with little opposition, ensuring one less hindrance for companies to submit a bid by the July 9th deadline.

During floor debate on the amendment, Congressman Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) and I spoke about the negative impact of the original amendment and the need for Congress to get out of the way so the Department of Defense can make a decision based on the facts and not parochial or political concerns. We both feel confident that EADS North America can win the contract based on the merits because its product provides the best value to both the warfighter and the taxpayer.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our offices in Montgomery at (334) 277-9113, Dothan at (334) 794-9680, Opp at (334) 493-9253, or Ozark at (334) 445-4600. You can also visit the website at www.bright.house.gov to sign up for the e-newsletter. It is my great pleasure to serve you and the entire Second District of Alabama.


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