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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. BROWN of Massachusetts. Mr. President, I rise today to speak briefly about the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

As a member of the Committee on Armed Services and as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Airland, I can say that it is one of the most, if not the most, bipartisan committees in the Senate. As I have said many times before, we are Americans first, and it is fitting that the Senate still works that way when it comes to providing the tools and resources for our men and women serving in uniform. We recently proved it when we passed the tax credit for unemployed veterans, something I was proud to sponsor, and was also proud to be at the White House for the signing ceremony a little over 1 week ago.

I am proud of this bill as well, which represents a year's worth of hard work and devotion by Senators Levin and McCain, and all the committee members and their staffs, for their dedication to putting out a topnotch bill. I want to also thank Senator Lieberman, chairman of the Airland Subcommittee, for his committed leadership and effort on behalf of our military and military families. I have been honored to work with him and his staff throughout the year.

I believe we have developed thoughtful and informed provisions in our subcommittee mark which will authorize funding for our military's most crucial capabilities and resources. Our decisions were informed by a series of hearings that addressed several critical issues facing our air and ground forces, including force structure, modernization of ground forces, tactical aviation, and specifically the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. In the end, I believe we achieved our goal of executing the Secretary of Defense's vision to enhance our Nation's capability to fight the wars we are in today and to address scenarios we are most likely to face in the future. We are hedging against other risks and contingencies also.

I am also very proud that this bill includes an important provision based on legislation I introduced with Senator Kelly Ayotte last February, which is the No Contracting With the Enemy Act.

I had an opportunity to go in a codel to Pakistan-Afghanistan and met with a lot of the leaders over there, then-General Petraeus and others, and had an opportunity to go back as a soldier recently still serving. Speaking with General Allen and a lot of contracting generals, this by far is the most important piece of legislation we can file when it comes to dealing with funding. After speaking with General Petraeus, General Allen, and all the generals in charge of contracting, I was shocked that we are actually unable to sever contracts once we determine, through the new way of paying of cash versus electronic transfers, that we are actually in some instances contracting with the enemy which in turn is using those funds against our soldiers. We have heard many stories of those funds falling into Taliban hands and other insurgents' hands and used against us. And that, quite frankly, is unacceptable. Can you imagine that our own troops would be forced to continue giving money to the enemy because they are unable to terminate a contract? That makes absolutely no sense. So I was very thankful that the committee chairs and ranking members recognized that this is a critical part of the warfighting effort. As you can imagine, others I noted have found it to be unacceptable as well. So I want to thank Senator Ayotte for her leadership. Obviously we can fight this disgusting practice and give our troops the power to void any contracts when it is discovered that the contract benefits enemies of the United States. As General Petraeus stated last year: If money is ammunition, we need to make sure it gets into the right hands. And I couldn't agree with that statement more.

The committee had to make some tough decisions in light of the very real fiscal realities we are facing today. It is no secret that our military is already shouldering a burden unlike in years past, not only at home but also abroad. In today's fiscal environment in which it is very tough to get any dollars, our men and women in uniform stood up and stand up and have identified efficiencies and savings, and they should be commended, and so I want to do that right now. I want to say that any consideration of future cuts that place our Nation's military's readiness in jeopardy should receive very serious scrutiny.

Lastly, I want to say that when the time comes, I look forward to supporting and debating the amendment offered by the Senators from South Carolina and Vermont, Graham and Leahy, along with almost 70 other Senators who support this amendment. This would give the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat at the table of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This could not be more overdue. I think we can all agree that over the past decade the National Guard has experienced momentous change in the way it fights, in the way it trains, and in the way it equips itself, serving alongside their brothers and sisters in arms, and they deserve the same respect with the Joint Chiefs. As a result, the Guard today is much different than the Guard I grew up with when I joined back in 1979. No longer is the Guard considered a strategic reserve used to address limited and unforeseen emergencies. Rather, today's Guard serves alongside its active-duty counterparts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and many other strategic locations throughout the world. It serves as the tip of the spear for homeland defense response and disaster relief. They are fighting in many areas overseas, and they are coming home with devastating injuries just like everybody else. Their families are going through the trauma just like everybody else. They fought and died in the war on terror, and they represent thousands of American communities across this great country. I look forward to supporting this amendment when it comes forth.

That said, now that the bill is before the full Senate, I hope we will have an opportunity to conduct meaningful debate, not shutting off debate, not doing cloture before it is time, but allowing us to work as we did recently when we passed the 3-percent withholding, a bill I sponsored, and also the HIRE a Hero Veterans Act, which I also sponsored. Those passed overwhelmingly without any dissenting votes.

I, like my colleagues, have offered several amendments which I feel are relevant to protecting and providing the tools and resources for our men and women who are serving. I look forward to working with the chairman and ranking member to have them considered appropriately.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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