Early this morning, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), the son of a World War II Major and a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted against the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), because it wastes billions of dollars on programs that are not keeping America safe and continues to include language that could threaten our civil liberties.
The Congressman's district includes Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, which carries out a mobility mission, and Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, which conducts Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). The NDAA passed out of Committee and is expected to reach the House Floor next week.
"Today I voted against the NDAA, because it wastes billions of dollars on programs that are not keeping America safe. This legislation dramatically expands our nuclear arsenal despite the fact that we are already capable of destroying the world many times over with our existing weapons. It wastes $250 million to develop an unproven and unnecessary East Coast missile defense program. It funds the Afghanistan War to the tune of over $80 billion and provides over $7.7 million for the Afghan military, including $2.6 billion in new funding for aircraft and related equipment for the Afghan National Security Forces, which have questionable capacity to operate or maintain these systems. The result of this expenditure will be more corruption and waste. The legislation also preserves dangerous language in federal law that could allow someone arrested on U.S. soil to be detained indefinitely without a trial, totally contrary to the Bill of Rights' fourth and fifth amendments. This is the first of several steps before the NDAA reaches the President's desk, and I will continue advocating for changes in the law that would allow me to vote for it in its final form," said Congressman Garamendi.
Garamendi added, "Despite these significant problems that led me to voting no, my office has been engaged throughout this process to help shape the best possible piece of legislation. The NDAA includes a number of amendments I authored: requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on estimated U.S. force levels in Afghanistan post-2014 and the costs of these operations through 2020; making clear that the President does not have any authority to engage in military actions in Syria without the consent of Congress; urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to provide analysis of alternatives to certain nuclear weapons systems life extension programs and nuclear facilities that have far exceeded their original cost-estimates; supporting our nation's move to energy independence; and expressing the importance of the merchant marine to our national defense."
Combating Sexual Assault in the Military
The Department of Defense estimates that there were 26,000 incidences of rape or sexual assault in the military in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010.
Congressman Garamendi said, "The problem of rape and sexual assault in the military is serious and must be rooted out - now. This violence is an affront to anyone with a shred of human decency. This bill takes important steps to prevent these crimes, but it is not enough. I join Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Speier in calling for additional legislative action to protect service members from sexual violence and to reestablish justice for its survivors."
Advocating for Northern California
The Congressman supported language in the bill that will continue the Global Hawk Block 30 program, which is at Beale Air Force Base, through the end of 2016. The Global Hawk is an unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft that is a major component of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) program. Capable of staying aloft for 30 hours, three times longer than the U2, the Global Hawk is used in North Africa, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and Somalia, as well as for humanitarian purposes and emergencies, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The NDAA's report includes a provision that requires the Defense Department to provide a detailed ISR strategy.
Congressman Garamendi said, "I am inspired by the bravery and professionalism of the Airmen at Travis and Beale Air Force Bases. They perform missions that are vital for national security in the 21st Century: the rapid movement of defense assets around the world and the gathering of intelligence data. I will continue to use my position on the Armed Services Committee to support their most important work."
The Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment, authored by Garamendi, to have the Secretary of Defense provide a briefing to Congress on power and energy research associated with the grid conducted at University Affiliated Research Centers -- increasingly important issues as military bases are looking to maximize their energy efficiency and security. Also, the Congressman spoke in opposition to an amendment, which was defeated, that would have restricted the use of electric vehicles by the Armed Forces.
"The military is moving aggressively to reduce its carbon footprint and help our nation secure our energy independence through innovation and adoption of clean energy. California plays a huge role in this transformation. A perfect example is the partnership between Travis Air Force Base and nearby wind farms to allow for the full operation of both. Let's keep the momentum going," said Garamendi.
Supporting Smart Investments and Smart Cuts
Congressman Garamendi, who is Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, authored an amendment that recognizes the crucial role of the U.S. Merchant Marine in our national security. The amendment expresses the sense of Congress that American shipbuilding is a critical component of our national defense and that the Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Navy, should pursue the most cost-effective means of recapitalizing the Ready Reserve Fleet. This amendment was adopted by the Committee and written into the bill.
The Congressman offered a number of amendments to eliminate spending for wasteful programs that do not advance our nation's security in favor of more effective programs or deficit reduction. The Armed Services Committee failed to approve any of these sensible proposals to reduce spending and to lower our deficit, including:
· Calling for the Comptroller General to produce an assessment of the nuclear strategic triad, providing the most comprehensive assessment since a 1992 GAO report on the topic,
· Directing the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) to provide a study on potential uses for nuclear facilities at Savannah River and independent assessment of cost-effective alternatives for plutonium disposition. The Savannah River project was originally budgeted for $1.8 billion and is now expected to cost $7.7 billion -- a cost overrun of $5.9 billion.
· Removing over $100 million for a proposed East Coast Missile Defense Site. The Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Admiral James Syring, testified before Congress that new funding for this system is not wanted by the Department of Defense at this time. The amendment would have transferred funds for this system to the Reserve and National Guard.
The Committee did adopt Garamendi's amendment calling for the NNSA to provide analysis of alternatives to certain nuclear weapons systems life extension programs and nuclear facilities that have far exceeded their original cost-estimates.
"The proposed new East Coast Missile Defense Site, which will ultimately cost at least $3.6 billion, is an extraordinary expenditure for a system that does not work. When I directly asked the military if they needed the $250 million allocated for this project in the FY '14 NDAA, they clearly said no," said Congressman Garamendi "Instead of spending money on outdated, obsolete, Cold War era boondoggles, we should use this funding for effective modern national security systems, for proven investments in job creating economic growth such as infrastructure, and for responsibly reducing the deficit."
Supporting an End to the Afghanistan War, the Judicious Use of Force, and Civil Liberties
The Afghanistan War, the longest American war in history, is winding down, but this process remains overly opaque. Garamendi offered an amendment requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on estimated U.S. force levels and on the costs of U.S. operations for each year from Fiscal Year 2015-2020. This amendment was adopted by the Committee.
Given the high level of corruption in the Afghan government and a history of waste in the war, the Congressman submitted an amendment that would withhold the increased $2.6 billion allocated for aircraft and equipment for the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) until the Department of Defense submits a report on the delivery date of these systems, the long term operation and maintenance plan, and the expected impact on U.S. costs of sustaining the ANSF. This amendment was deemed out of order by the Majority.
Since the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in force for the last decade is overly broad, and new language was introduced in the bill suggesting a "red line" had been crossed in Syria and expressing support for US military intervention, Garamendi offered amendments to provide clarity on two matters:
· Making clear that nothing in the bill should be construed as an AUMF for military action in Syria. This amendment was adopted by the Committee into the legislation.
· Preventing the use of indefinite detention without trial of anyone in the United States. This amendment was withdrawn, so that the issue can be brought up on the House Floor next week.
Even though the number of troops in Afghanistan will have decreased by 40% as compared to last year (from 63,000 to 38,000), the NDAA only reduces funding for the war by around 3% (from around $86 billion to an estimated $83 billion) - failing to capture the savings from our drawdown. The bill also increases spending on the Afghan National Security Forces by 51% over last year's number, from $5.1 billion to $7.7 billion.
"The war in Afghanistan has continued long past its objective, costing us blood and treasure. It must be brought to a close as soon as possible," said Congressman Garamendi. "The lesson from the last decade is that we must proceed judiciously before putting American troops in danger."