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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the critical piece of legislation we are now working on that will strengthen our national security, provide for our troops and their families, and improve oversight of American taxpayer dollars.

Over the last half century, the Senate has successfully passed a defense authorization bill without fail every year. This strong tradition of bipartisanship continues today under the joint leadership of Senators Levin and McCain.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I thank the chairman and ranking member, as well as the majority and minority staff, for their dedicated and tireless effort as we work to bring this important legislation to the floor.

Throughout this yearlong process, our committee takes on extremely difficult and contentious security issues, and at times we have our differences. However, we take on these disagreements in a respectful and openminded fashion, driven by a strong commitment to cooperation and compromise. Bipartisanship has never been easy, but it works, as the Armed Services Committee has proven year in and year out. I hope all of our committees in the Senate can work in this kind of cooperative fashion, especially these days when budget constraints are so difficult.

No department of the Federal Government is immune from the severe fiscal challenges facing our Nation. That includes our Department of Defense. We are cutting $27 billion from the President's budget request in this bill, nearly $43 billion from the last year's authorization. We need to find ways to maximize our investments in defense by aggressively eliminating unneeded and underperforming programs and we need to streamline our business practices and invest strategically in future technology.

The bill before us helps ensure that our troops, especially the 96,000 serving in Afghanistan as well as their families, continue to receive the care and support they deserve. It provides hard-earned pay raises for all uniformed military personnel, funding for critical equipment, and training required for our men and women to succeed on the battlefield.

The Defense authorization bill before us makes important investments in defense, science, and technology. As I know the Chair agrees, we need to do more to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers who will be so important to maintaining our Nation's superior technological edge. The current bill makes a small downpayment on this important effort, and I intend to continue to fight for more investment as we move forward.

The bill also includes a number of provisions that will enable the Defense Department to lead in the creation of a more secure energy future for our military and for our country. As the single largest consumer of energy in the world today, the U.S. military has taken some initial steps on energy efficiency, energy mitigation, and the use of renewable and clean energy alternatives. But we still have a very long way to go. I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Defense to take advantage of more energy savings opportunities in the future.

This year's Defense authorization bill also includes significant resources to fight nontraditional threats, including the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the growing challenge posed by cyber warfare. In addition, I am pleased a number of provisions I have been working on are currently included in the bill.

First, we are extending the Small Business Innovation Research Program for the next 8 years. This is critical to keep our defense manufacturing base and our small business innovators strong and competitive. This is a provision I have worked on. I commend Senators Landrieu and Snowe for their leadership in the Small Business Committee for working on this effort and for working so hard to get this extension, a long-term extension, into the Defense authorization bill.

The bill also includes a version of the National Guard Citizen Soldiers Support Act, which will go far in providing our National Guard members with the unique services and support they need when they return home from the fight.

We also have a Navy shipyard modernization provision that has been introduced by Senators Snowe and Collins and Senator Ayotte and I, from New Hampshire. It also includes a $400 million cut to an unnecessary and underperforming weapons program that I have worked closely with Senators McCain and Begich to include.

In addition, I was pleased to cosponsor Senator Leahy's National Guard Empowerment Act, which gives a stronger voice to our 450,000 citizen soldiers in our National Guard.

Although we have a good bill before us, I believe it could be better, and I have introduced several additional amendments, two of which are designed to provide the nearly 214,000 women serving in our Armed Services with the reproductive health care they are currently denied under the law. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a vote on those amendments. But I hope to continue to work closely with the chairman and ranking member to address these important concerns.

In addition, I have worked closely with Senators Collins and Casey on an amendment to address unsecured and looted stockpiles of tens of thousands of shoulder-fired missiles in Libya. If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, they pose a serious threat to civil aviation worldwide and to our deployed forces abroad.

I wish to thank the committee for including this provision in the legislation. I also wish to address, briefly, some of the concerns that have been raised with respect to the detainee provisions in the bill. The underlying legislation which I supported is an attempt to provide a statutory basis for dealing with detained members of al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates.

In committee, we made some difficult choices on this extremely complex issue. But we did that in order to strike a bipartisan agreement to both protect our values and our security. I understand, similar to all the Members of this body, the concerns that have been raised on both sides of these issues.

Again, as a general principle, I believe our national security officials should have the flexibility needed to deal with the constantly evolving threat. But I also believe that clear, transparent rules of procedure are a bedrock legal principle of our constitutional system. I believe the military detention language in this bill includes a significant amount of flexibility for the executive branch, including a national security waiver and broad authorities on implementation.

Although I support the goals of the chairman and ranking member's underlying legislation, I also believe we can improve those provisions. I supported Senator Feinstein's amendment that we just voted on which would restrict required military custody to only those terrorist suspects captured abroad.

I hope that despite the disagreements, we will continue to chart a bipartisan path forward with respect to these detainee provisions in the years ahead. We need to give our national security officials at home and abroad a clearly defined but yet flexible system which protects our constitutional rights and our national security.

In conclusion, I believe the 2012 Defense authorization bill before us will strengthen our national security, maintain our military power, keep our defense businesses competitive, help cancel and roll back wasteful spending, and support the men and women who defend our Nation every day. I hope the full Senate will quickly come to an agreement on the pending amendments and pass this important piece of legislation so it can go to the President's desk as soon as possible.

I yield the floor.

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Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my disappointment that the Senate was not able to reach agreement to consider an important amendment on the Defense authorization bill that would allow women in the military access to the same health care coverage as civilian women.

There are almost 214,000 women currently serving in our Armed Forces. Many of these brave women are risking their lives for our national security. Despite the sacrifices these women make to protect our freedom, they are not given the same rights as civilian women when it comes to their reproductive health care.

If a service woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest, her insurance will not cover an abortion if she decides to seek one; the law as currently written expressly prohibits it. This is unconscionable. To correct this injustice, I offered an amendment to the bill that we are currently debating that would allow a service woman the ability to receive insurance coverage for an abortion if her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Unfortunately, because there are some in this body who do not want this unfair law changed, we were not able to bring this amendment to the floor for a vote.

Women currently serving in the armed services are victims of discrimination. They do not have access to the same critical--and legal--reproductive health care as the civilians they protect.

Bans on abortion coverage exist for millions of women who receive their health care through government programs, but in most cases these bans allow for coverage of such care if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Women receiving their health care through Medicaid, Medicare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the Indian Health Services all have access to the care they need if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Even women serving time in our Federal prisons can get abortions covered in the case of rape. Sadly, this is not the case for our Nation's women in uniform.

I believe that every woman should have the reproductive health care coverage she needs wherever she is and whenever she needs it. I do not think that any ban on abortion is appropriate. However if Federal bans do exist, they should at least be consistent.

My amendment is simple. It would permit a service woman to have an abortion covered by her military health insurance if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Repealing the current ban on such coverage will simply bring the Department of Defense in line with most other federal policies.

I recently met a woman who was a victim of rape during her military service. She was stationed in Korea and was unable to receive the health care she needed and deserved. Her story was heartbreaking. Because of her unwanted pregnancy, she had to leave the service and return home.

The reality is that women in the military, especially those posted overseas, have few safe or legal reproductive health care options when they cannot rely on the military. Without access to these services, some women will be forced to resort to unsafe care or delay the health services they need. Women who give their lives for our country deserve better.

While the bill we are considering today will move forward without this important change, I pledge to all the women in our military who are victims of this law that I will continue my fight to bring the Department of Defense in line with other Federal agencies to allow coverage for critical reproductive health care.

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