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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, could I say, I thank my dear and old friend from Michigan. I was recollecting that he and I have now worked together for over a quarter of a century. But far more important than that, this legislation and how we handle it, I say to all my colleagues, can be a model for how this body should do business: Take up a piece of legislation, have amendments and debate, and move forward. If that requires long hours, and even occasionally a Friday or even more, then I think our colleagues should be prepared to do that. We are not sent here for a 3-day workweek. We are sent here to do the people's business.

I am not proud, Madam President--and I will not point fingers at anybody--it was judged by historians the last session of Congress was the least productive since 1947. Now, maybe Senator Levin and I were around in 1947, but we do not remember exactly what happened in those days. But the fact is that when we are looking at basically continuous gridlock, day after day, week after week, month after month, then we have to change the way we do business.

Hanging over all this, I say to my friends on this side of the aisle, is a change in the rules, which could cause what we used to call the nuclear option, which we were able to avoid some years ago when this sort of same thing was contemplated on the confirmation process of judges.

So we are now proceeding, I say to my friend from Michigan, without a motion to proceed, without a cloture vote, without the normal parliamentary back and forth that takes up 2 or 3 days of every week here, and we want people to come to the floor, have amendments--as there is one pending from the Senator from Colorado--we debate it openly and honestly, we have votes on it, and we move forward. If it requires quite a while--because we are talking about this Nation's security, the National Defense Authorization Act--then we should be willing to spend those hours on it.

So it seems to me, if we can do what the distinguished chairman and I contemplate; that is, that we move forward with the amendments, we have open and honest debate--we will work with any of our Members to try to make sure their issues and their amendments get the consideration they deserve. But we also may have to put in long hours in order to do so. There is no reason to use a parliamentary mechanism to keep us from addressing this Nation's national security. The lives of the men and women who are serving are dependent upon the work we are doing, and for someone--individual Members of this body--to hold up the whole process because of his or her specific issue is not appropriate treatment of this issue.

I urge all my colleagues to cooperate. I believe we can show the entire country that we are capable of moving forward and addressing the issues in a measured, mature, and productive fashion, which is what the American people are demanding of us. I do not need to remind my colleagues of our approval ratings. But there is ample reason for that disapproval because we have not moved forward and done the people's business.

Again, I urge all my colleagues to show the kind of forbearance and the kind of maturity that is necessary in order to complete this legislation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friend from Michigan, Chairman LEVIN, for his leadership in writing this year's Defense authorization bill. We have worked together for many years now, and the chairman has set a high standard of cooperation and bipartisanship that befits the esteemed history of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I am pleased that we will finally have the opportunity to discuss and debate this crucial piece of bipartisan legislation, which has been on the Senate's calendar for almost 6 months. My colleagues and I have come to the Senate floor numerous times during those months to ask the majority leader to call up the Defense authorization bill. While I had hoped to get started on this bill much earlier, I do appreciate the majority leader's offer to bring up the bill with an open process for dealing with amendments. Unfortunately, here we are, with only a few weeks left in this Congress, just beginning debate on one of the most critical pieces of legislation the Congress annually considers. So I ask my colleagues' cooperation in offering relevant amendments with limited time for debate, so that we may afford all Senators an opportunity to address their ideas and concerns with respect to national defense.

Because of the delay in bringing up this bill, we are considering the Defense authorization bill under the imminent threat of budget sequestration mandated by last year's Budget Control Act. Pentagon leadership has repeatedly warned that these automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense spending, totaling almost half a trillion dollars over the next decade, would devastate the Department's ability to provide for the Nation's defense. Sequestration would undermine the readiness of the armed services; dramatically reduce our ability to project power and defend our interests at a time when the world is becoming more dangerous; jeopardize the livelihood of civilian and uniformed personnel alike; and bring with it the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of layoffs. Furthermore, the way in which these cuts would be applied will likely require that thousands of contracts be terminated and renegotiated at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

It is unconscionable that the President has not come to the Congress with a proposal to avoid the devastation of sequestration, not only on our national security but on our economic security as well. It has been over a year since the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or supercommittee, admitted defeat, and the President has shown no leadership and offered no solutions to the impending sequestration. Many of us in this body have been meeting and discussing potential alternatives to sequestration. Sequestration will take effect on January 2, just a short time from now. We need leadership to avoid this disaster and to address the spending and revenue issues that have brought our Nation to the fiscal cliff.

The Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act contains many ``must pass'' authorizations, including a pay raise for our men and women in the Armed Forces, bonuses, health care, and quality of life programs that are essential to the readiness of our Armed Forces and the well-being of their families. The bill helps to address the needs of wounded service members and their families. Military construction and family housing projects cannot proceed without the specific authorizations contained in this bill.

This bill also includes important authorities that support our national security objectives around the world, including an extension of the Afghan Security Forces Fund, a program instrumental to our efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan Army and Police. It also extends the CERP program which provides commanders on the ground with the ability to fund small-scale humanitarian projects that directly benefit the Afghan people, as well as the Coalition Support Funds program which reimburses cooperating nations supporting the effort in Afghanistan. The bill also contains a provision mandating an independent assessment of the size, structure, and capability requirements of the Afghanistan National Security Forces necessary to provide enduring security for their country so it does not revert to a safe haven for international terrorism.

In the area of military compensation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the President's request for fiscal year 2013 for pay and benefits of current and retired members of the military represents more than one-quarter of DOD's total base budget request. In light of this, the bill would establish a Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to review these benefits and recommend any future changes necessary to ensure both quality of life and sustainable benefits for those who serve.

In the area of acquisition and contracting, the bill includes provisions that would improve how the Department buys weapons systems and other goods and services by prohibiting the use of cost-type contracts for the production of major weapon systems; requiring the Department to revise its ``profit policy'' to make sure that it effectively incentivizes contractors to control costs; requiring that the Department notify Congress of potential termination liability on contracts for major weapon systems; and calling on the Department to improve its guidance on how it procures capability in response to ``joint emergent operational needs''.

Several provisions in the bill continue the committee's strong oversight of troubled programs. The bill fences 50 percent of the funding for the second Ford-class aircraft carrier until the Navy submits a report on how it will control its construction costs, while the accompanying Senate report directs the Navy to recertify the current $8.1 billion cost cap on CVN-79. Other provisions enhance

oversight of, and transparency into, the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Mission Packages; subject how the Air Force maintains and modernizes F-22A aircraft to greater oversight; and continue strong oversight of the F-35 program.

This year's bill also contains important initiatives intended to ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars by codifying the 2014 goal for the Department of Defense to achieve an auditable statement of budgetary resources; requiring the implementation of recommendations provided by the GAO to eliminate duplicative programs and functions; imposing additional protections for DOD whistleblowers; and requiring a detailed cost estimate and personnel plan for the new Defense Clandestine Service.

Another important provision would require the commander of U.S. Cyber Command to provide a strategy for the development and deployment of offensive cyber capabilities to serve as deterrents to, and for response in the event of, a cyberattack. I believe strongly that cyber warfare will be the key battlefield of the 21st century, and I am concerned about our ability to fight and win in this new domain without a robust offensive capability. Crafting a comprehensive, well-defined strategy, required under this provision and others, should also spur U.S. Cyber Command to identify critical personnel requirements for offensive cyber missions, which are presently understaffed.

Again this year, the committee restricted further construction on Guam related to the realignment of U.S. Marines in the Pacific theater until Congress has a clear understanding of the costs and strategic implications of the proposed force realignments on our strong allies in the region. The bill also contains no funding for the Office of Economic Adjustment activities on Guam, and it requires future requests for the construction of public facilities and infrastructure be specifically authorized by law, thereby eliminating another potential source of earmarks.

In addition, this bill would impose restrictions on DOD expenditures to develop a commercial biofuels industry. I strongly support continued Defense Department research in energy technologies that reduce fuel demand for our weapons systems and save lives on the battlefield. But I do not condone siphoning defense funds from those critical efforts to pay $27 per gallon for biofuels or $170 million to use as venture capital for the construction of a commercial biofuels refinery. This is not a core defense need and should be left to the private sector, or to the Department of Energy, which received over $4 billion last year for energy research and development for related programs. The committee's action corrects this misplacement of priorities.

Even without the massive budget cuts that will occur if sequestration is not averted, the President last year proposed $487 billion in defense budget cuts by fiscal year 2021. The total funding authorized in this bill reflects the President's reduced defense budget plan. However, within that total funding, the Armed Services Committee cut an additional $3.3 billion from programs requested by the Department of Defense to fund congressional special interest items. I am concerned that, in light of the budget realities facing the Pentagon and the Nation, at a time when our military is being asked to make drastic cuts in personnel, some of our colleagues continue to divert resources from vital military requirements to fund unnecessary and unrequested projects.

Some argue that the Department of Defense does not have a monopoly on good ideas. While true, the committee has an obligation to ensure that funding added to new programs results in tangible value to our national security and our military personnel. Terms like ``Committee initiative,'' as used in this bill, do not effectively disguise additions to the budget that are earmarks by any other name. Two perennial additions that highlight the problem of unrequested authorizations are the Industrial Base Innovation Fund, IBIF, and the Defense Rapid Innovation Program, DRIP, which together are earmarked for $230 million in this bill. These funds were not requested by the Department of Defense and as a result, the Department has struggled to put them on contract and manage the money for any useful purpose.

Serious threats face our Nation, most recently evidenced by the deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi, and our Armed Forces are still engaged in operations in Afghanistan and deployed around the world. At the same time, our Nation is facing a severe fiscal crisis which is only weeks away, due to the unwillingness or inability of the President and Congress to agree on a solution to the current tax-and-spending stalemate.

And once again, Congress has failed to enact either an authorization or appropriations bill for the Department of Defense almost 2 months into the fiscal year. We have failed to provide the Department with a baseline to plan for sequestration, if it is ultimately not averted. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to swiftly approve this legislation so that a Defense authorization bill can be enacted before the end of the year.

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Mr. McCAIN. This amendment is to authorize additional Marine Corps personnel for the performance of security functions for the U.S. Embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic facilities abroad.

The tragic events in Benghazi on September 11 and the ongoing tumult throughout the Middle East and north Africa should serve as a stark reminder that the security environment confronting American personnel serving in U.S. Embassies and consulates abroad is as dangerous as any time I can remember.

Despite claims by some, al-Qaida and its affiliates remain dangerous and determined to kill Americans. This reality must force us to reassess the threat to U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world and provide additional resources and military end strength; that is, U.S. marines, to increase protection of diplomatic personnel from those threats. This amendment will do that. It will provide the necessary end strength and resources to support an increase in Marine Corps security at U.S. Embassies and consulates throughout the world--up to 1,000 additional personnel--in particular at locations identified by the Secretary of State as in need of increased security in light of known and emerging threats to U.S. personnel and property by terrorists.

Most Americans believe that U.S. marines are stationed to protect our Embassy personnel abroad, but I think they would be surprised to learn that marines are assigned in only slightly more than half of our diplomatic missions worldwide--182 missions in 137 countries. Moreover, their numbers are small. A typical detachment consists of only six military Marine personnel. Today there are 126 U.S. diplomatic missions outside the United States without Marine Corps security protection, including parts of Asia and Africa where we suspect al-Qaida is expanding its presence.

As the nature of threats to American diplomatic personnel is changing, the Marine Corps security guard mission has not. The current mission of this program dates back to the post-war era of 1948, principally for the protection of classified information and equipment in diplomatic facilities.

The Marine Security Guard Program is also the only Marine Corps program that is under the operational command of the Department of State. For this reason, this amendment would also require the President to present discrete budget requests for Marine Corps security personnel overseas in support of diplomatic personnel and Marine Corps end strength and resources required to maintain readiness to protect our national security. These are distinct missions, and increasing one--as is necessary in light of the attack in Benghazi--cannot come at the expense of another.

Americans may believe our marines are the first line of defense in attacks on diplomatic compounds overseas. The truth is that they are not. They are not mandated to engage with attackers and in some cases may not be permitted to engage. For this reason, this amendment calls on the Department of Defense to reassess this mission and rules of engagement as we increase our capability to protect embassies and consulates throughout the world.

As the world now knows, there were no marine guards at the consulate at Benghazi at the time of the September 11 attack despite the rapidly deteriorating security situation. Would their presence have made a difference and saved the lives of our heroic Ambassador and his security personnel? I think I know the answer to that question, and so do the American people.

So I think it is time for the administration to rapidly complete a reassessment of the risk to U.S. personnel conducting diplomacy abroad posed by terrorists and others wishing to do us harm and ensure that personnel at all 285 missions, not just 182, have adequate protection, including by U.S. marines. I am not saying this amendment requires that marine presence at every one of these missions. What we are saying is that as a result of the risk assessments, we have sufficient authorization and appropriation for adequate protection, part of which--and a major part--is the presence of the U.S. Marine Corps.

I call on my colleagues to fulfill the mission of the Marine Security Guard Program to ensure that U.S. personnel are protected and authorize the necessary end strength and resources for the Marine Corps to achieve this necessary goal.

Mr. President, at this time I yield to Senator Murray.

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished chairman. I think we have made reasonably good progress today. I think we have disposed of a number of important amendments. We still have a number of issues, particularly the detainee issue, which will probably require that we have a number of speakers. But also I hope we could reach a time limit on that.

The Senator mentioned that there may be possibly a side-by-side or a second-degree amendment to the Ayotte amendment. But I think the chairman would agree, we have made pretty good progress. We have still got quite a long way to go. We have a full day tomorrow. Hopefully we can get it down to a bare minimum of amendments so we can finish.

I thank all of our colleagues for their cooperation. We thank the Senator from North Carolina for discussing her amendment this evening.

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