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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise to voice my support for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867. This is one of the most important bills the Senate considers each year, and this is the ninth Defense authorization bill I have been involved in drafting since being elected to the Senate. It sets funding levels and implements policies for the Department of Defense and provides pay raises for our men and women in uniform.

After extended debate, this bill, which authorizes $662 billion for the Department of Defense and national security-related aspects of the Department of Energy, was passed unanimously out of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The committee was in a difficult situation this year, considering our Nation's fiscal crisis. As I have firmly believed all along, everything, including defense spending, must be on the table to address our fiscal circumstances.

In the midst of intense budget negotiations, I am pleased we can offer and debate a bill that addresses the real need to reduce government spending in a responsible and calculated manner. As several of my colleagues have already stated on the Senate floor, the National Defense Authorization Act cuts a considerable amount from the defense budget, as requested by the President. It is $27 billion less than the administration requested and $43 billion less than the amount appropriated for 2011. These were very difficult decisions to make, but it was the fiscally responsible thing to do given our Nation's fiscal situation.

I am pleased the committee was able to make these cuts without jeopardizing our national security. Given the unstable state of affairs around the world, now is not the time to slash important programs that help our military carry out their responsibilities. We still have widespread enemies and interests around the world. With this in mind, the bill authorizes $3.2 billion for DOD's Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle fund; authorizes $10.3 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, an increase of 6 percent above fiscal year 2011 levels; and authorizes more than $2.4 billion for DOD's counter-improvised explosive device activities.

In recent months, we have seen what a remarkable impact a small, elite force of U.S. soldiers can have, and I am pleased this bill authorizes a deserved funding increase for U.S. Special Operations Command in order to expand their resources, training, technology, and equipment to accomplish their missions. Along with funding, this bill will extend the authority of Special Operations Forces to provide support to operations fighting against terrorism around the world.

Regarding our ongoing operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas, the bill allocates $11.2 billion for training and equipping the Afghan security forces commensurate with recommendations from the Commander of U.S. Central Command, and fully supports the budget request of $1.75 billion in Coalition Support Funds to reimburse key partner nations supporting U.S. military operations in Operation Enduring Freedom.

I am also pleased that I will be leaving later on today, along with Senator Burr, and heading to Afghanistan to visit our troops and to visit with our commanders on the ground, both from an intelligence standpoint as well as an operational standpoint. This is the fourth Thanksgiving I have had the opportunity to be on the ground with our troops and to look them in the eye, with their boots on the ground, and tell them how much we, as policymakers, but more importantly we, as Americans, appreciate the great sacrifice each and every one of them is making and how much we appreciate the great job they are doing of protecting America and protecting Americans.

This bill also authorizes $500 million for counterterrorism, capacity-building activities, including targeted efforts in east Africa and Yemen, and fully supports the budget request of $524 million to support the activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq in overseeing and implementing foreign military sales to the Iraqi security forces.

Keeping in mind the strategic value of our nuclear deterrent and our ongoing need to modernize and maintain our nuclear triad, the bill authorizes $1.1 billion to continue to develop the Ohio-class replacement program, the SSBN(X), to modernize the sea-based leg of the nuclear deterrent system.

The U.S. military requires the capability to counter a growing amount of nontraditional threats. In this bill, we strengthen our forces on the threat of cyber warfare and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. It is no secret that American computer networks are the victim of attempted hacking from state and non-state actors around the world on a regular basis. With funds authorized in this bill, the Department of Defense will be able to better guard against the threat of cyber attacks.

I am also pleased that in this bill we were able to focus on the well-being of our brave men and women fighting on the front lines for our freedom overseas, as well as their devoted family members back at home who make sacrifices every single day. The bill authorizes $100.6 billion for military personnel, including costs of pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, and permanent change of station moves. The bill also authorizes a 1.6-percent across-the-board pay raise for our service men and women as well as authorizes over 30 types of bonuses and special pays aimed at encouraging enlistment, re-enlistment, and continued service by Active-Duty and Reserve component military personnel. Our attention remains on improving the quality of life of the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families, as well as Department of Defense civilian personnel, through fair pay, policies, and benefits, including first-rate health care, while addressing the needs of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their families.

Let me also briefly address the amendment I have just filed. I have been working for the last several weeks with my colleagues, Senators Isakson, Hatch, Lee, Inhofe, and Coburn, on an issue related to the reorganization of the Air Force Materiel Command.

Let me first say that I support this reorganization. It is the first major reorganization of the Materiel Command by the Air Force in some 60 years. I support the Air Force's need and desire to make themselves more efficient and more effective, and for the most part, I believe the proposed reorganization will do that.

In these tight budget times, when we are all going to have to accept streamlined budgets and resources, some loss of jobs and positions is, unfortunately, inevitable, and I realize that. However, there is one issue with respect to this proposed reorganization that I think we are all having a hard time understanding and that relates to how the reorganization may affect the way the Air Force organizes for sustainment of weapon systems.

The proposed reorganization would take some of the key personnel who are helping to orchestrate these sustainment efforts and put them in a separate chain of command from their partners in carrying out those sustainment efforts. This is hard to understand. And, in a time when our Air Force is working harder than ever and keeping their aircraft in the fleet longer than ever, it is hard to imagine how a change such as the Air Force is proposing here will help sustainment of weapon systems.

We are working with the Air Force on this issue, and we are still in negotiations, but this is an issue for which we have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation, and we have not reached a conclusion of this issue. I think the Air Force needs to clearly understand that there is a risk here. There is a risk that this reorganization may have some unintended consequences specifically related to the readiness of our Air Force. This is serious. We have not seen any explanation for how the Air Force arrived at their proposed course of action on this specific issue or why they think it will improve readiness. I would also note that the way the Air Force is seeking to reorganize in this respect goes against some of the basic principles and recommendations of a recent, very thorough report on this specific issue.

It is with these issues in mind that we are filing this amendment. I very much look forward to the Air Force's explanations on this issue and to having this reorganization be executed in a way that allows the Air Force to conserve personnel and resources, organize more efficiently, and sustain weapon systems to support the warfighter in the most effective way possible.

In conclusion, I am extremely proud of the hard work the Armed Services Committee Members and staff have done to put together this Defense authorization bill. I would particularly like to compliment our leadership, Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain, on the job they have done and their willingness to work with Members of the Committee on our specific issues--issues such as the one Senator Ayotte and I discussed on the floor yesterday, along with Senator Graham, Senator McCain, and Senator Levin, regarding detainee policy, of which we have none at the present time and to which folks such as Senator Ayotte have given a great deal of thought and have come up with some very logical ways in which we can address this issue of detainees so that we can get actionable intelligence from those detainees and, at the same time, ensure they are treated in ways that are respectful to our system of jurisprudence on the military side as well as on the civilian side.

I want to also say that we have had a couple of hiccups along the way, but staff on both sides, the majority and minority, have addressed those hiccups, and we have been working very closely to try to ensure that the issues we raised with staff after the bill was filed have been addressed and are in the process of being taken care of.

As a reflection of the extremely tight budget environment, we have taken responsible reductions in spending; however, we maintain our commitment to the Armed Forces by providing funds and authorizations to protect our national security and support our men and women on the front lines, as well as their dedicated families here in America.

I look forward to the remainder of the debate on this bill when we return after our Thanksgiving break.

To all of our men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America, Happy Thanksgiving.

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