Dear Fellow Coloradan,
As a member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) and Intelligence committees, working with my SASC colleagues to draft the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of my most important jobs. This bill sets the budget for the military and helps to guide defense policy and priorities for the coming year.
This year, I introduced a number of key amendments to the NDAA that will make our country more secure, allow us to more effectively protect Americans against emerging threats, and enhance our military readiness -- all while helping to cut unnecessary costs and provide improved accountability to taxpayers. You can read more below about the amendments I fought to include in the NDAA.
We must maintain the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world, and that includes taking outstanding care of our men and women in uniform. That commitment comes at a significant cost -- approximately 20 percent of the total federal budget. The past decade has taught us that we cannot effectively project strength abroad if we're economically weak at home. In order to maintain our military's strategic and technological advantage while also working to pay down our debt, we are going to have to spend our defense dollars more wisely and efficiently. It will require some difficult choices, but I am confident we can generate real cost savings without sacrificing our national security.
One of the most critical national security challenges of the 21st century is resolving our nation's dependence on foreign oil. Our military consumes about 300,000 barrels of oil per day at a cost of approximately $14 billion per year. Because of the high costs, vulnerable supply lines, and frequent, unpredictable increases in global oil prices, diversifying our defense energy portfolio is a national security imperative. Osama bin Laden reportedly called fuel convoys our military's "umbilical cord." Our service members shouldn't have to lose their lives protecting fuel convoys when new energy technologies have the potential to eliminate this vulnerability. The Department of Defense (DOD) has always been an important driver of American innovation, and its leadership in developing new energy technologies will help to break our dependence on fossil fuels -- and protect our troops in harm's way.
While I am satisfied with the majority of the NDAA that was passed by the committee, there are a number of areas of the bill that still need to be improved:
Energy security is national security. We cannot afford to stifle the military's cutting-edge work on developing new energy technologies. Sacrificing improved energy security by limiting the military's ability to purchase non-petroleum-based fuels is misguided and shortsighted.
Unwise provisions in last year's NDAA that permit the military to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens must be amended or removed outright. We must remain vigilant against those who would do us harm, but we do not have to sacrifice liberty to guarantee national security. I voted against these provisions and led the fight on the Senate floor to remove them from last year's bill, but there is still work to do to protect our constitutional rights.
As the debate moves to the Senate floor, I will be working with members of both parties, using every means at my disposal to push for smart policies to improve our nation's energy security and to fight the degradation of our constitutional rights. I hope you will also raise your voice on these issues. Together, we will prevail against those who would force us to make the false choice between security and liberty, and put our nation on the path to energy independence.
Amendments I Fought to Include in the NDAA
Cyber Warrior Recruitment
My provision requires the Secretary of Defense to report on DOD's current programs to recruit and train cyber defense experts and asks for an analysis of the needs and shortfalls of those programs. Because current and future warfare will be conducted to some degree in cyberspace, it is critical that DOD locate and recruit outstanding computer experts to lead in the next generation of conflict and to protect U.S. networks, information and infrastructure.
Uranium Mine Cleanup
I passed an amendment requiring that the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and Energy Department study the cost and logistical requirements for cleaning up abandoned uranium mines, which often were used to mine materials to build nuclear warheads. Colorado is home to approximately 1,300 uranium mines that produced uranium for nuclear weapons, and this study will help to understand what it will take to remediate these abandoned mines, which remain radioactive and potentially dangerous.
I passed an amendment that will improve DOD's ability to develop conservation easements to protect training lands and to guard against encroachment. This will provide the military with the ability to work with other federal agencies to preserve buffer areas around installations and protect local communities.
Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS)
For the second year in a row, I led a bipartisan effort with Sen. John McCain of Arizona and six other senators to terminate funding for the MEADS program. This wasteful system has cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion since 1995, but has been such a failure that the Army announced last year it would not purchase the system. This cut will save taxpayers approximately $400 million.
Strategic Effects of Climate Change
My amendment, which the committee passed, creates a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to provide his views on a 2011 Defense Science Board report and a 2012 Intelligence Community Assessment regarding the impact of climate change. This will help ensure that our national security posture is prepared to respond to changing environments and natural resource challenges that may lead to conflict.
Language I introduced with Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska encourages the DOD to carefully consider the role of U.S. producers in supporting the development of rare earths materials that are critical for defense weapons systems and other important national priorities.
Strategic Concerns Regarding the Arctic
Sen. Begich and I also passed language that recognizes the increasing importance of the Arctic Region to our broader national security; commends the Department of Defense and specifically US Northern Command and the US Navy for their work on the issue with the US Coast Guard; urges continued interagency and international collaboration; and urges the agencies to develop an investment strategy for funding emerging requirements in balance with a resource-constrained environment.