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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 4 minutes.

I want to thank Chairman McKeon and the entire committee--and most importantly the staff. It's always this time of year when our staff never sleeps and does an amazing job of pulling this bill together.

We, once again, worked in a very bipartisan fashion, worked the bill through the process--a series of hearings, the markup last week. I thank the chairman for his excellent leadership in continuing that bipartisan tradition in the hopes of, for the 52nd straight year, getting our bill done. So I appreciate working with him and with all the members of the committee and the staff.

This bill, overall, sets the right priorities, I believe. It makes sure that our military is funded and that our troops get the equipment and support that they need to carry out the missions that we ask them to do. That is something General Dempsey says all the time: We'll do whatever you ask us to do; just make sure that you provide us with the resources to do it.

Whatever missions we as policymakers decide the military should perform, it's our obligation to make sure that it's funded. I believe this bill does that. It particularly prioritizes Special Operations Forces, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and the kind of equipment that we will need to confront the terrorist asymmetric threats that are so central to our challenges right now on national security.

As the chairman mentioned, it also takes steps on the sexual assault problem. I will say that no piece of legislation is going to fix this. The military needs to change its culture and prioritize the protection of the men and women in our service. This legislation will help, certainly; but this is a huge crisis right now that the military has not yet stepped up to. I think it is one of the most important challenges that we face in national security.

This piece of legislation also recognizes that we are still at war. It funds the ongoing effort in Afghanistan to make sure that our troops have the support that they need to carry out that mission.

However, there are a couple of things in the bill that I am concerned about. I believe that we do need to close Guantanamo, and I have an amendment before the Rules Committee which hopefully will be made in order that will set us on a process to do that. I agree with people who say that we can't simply close it tomorrow, we need a plan. My amendment would require that the President come up with such a plan in 60 days and implement it as soon as possible.

I continue to be concerned that the President has the power to indefinitely detain any person captured in the United States who is designated to be an enemy combatant. That is a level of executive power that I do not think is necessary; And as we have seen in recent weeks, people are growing concerned about the amount of power the executive branch has. Again, I will have an amendment to try to change that as well.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning--sequestration. This bill is marked to a level that assumes sequestration will not happen. I think that's appropriate. That's where we're at and what we have to do, but it points up the challenge of sequestration. If sequestration happens, this bill is going to have to be cut by between $40 billion and $50 billion. Where would that money come from? How would we make that work? Especially the way sequestration works, mindless, across-the-board cuts. Because the sad truth is that's the likely outcome. There is no pathway out of sequestration that we've seen. I thank the chairman for his leadership in continually bringing home how important this is, but we haven't gotten there yet. We need to keep emphasizing that.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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