As a result of efforts led by Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), major defense legislation that passed the House today would prevent a proposed cut in production of the exceptional Virginia Class Submarines built by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Quonset, RI and Groton, CT. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which directs the military to continue purchasing two boats per year, was approved by a 299-120 vote.
Responding to the military's recently released Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), which called for only one of the submarines in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, Langevin and Courtney advocated provisions to spread the cost of that boat over the full period of its construction. First, the Navy would receive more than $700 million in advance procurement funding in the FY 2013 budget. Second, the bill allows for construction to be paid using incremental funding, which gives the Navy the ability to pay in future years for parts not needed until after 2014.
"These boats, which are critical to our national security and built in my District in Quonset-Davisville by Electric Boat -- the hardworking men and women that work there -- are being built ahead of schedule and under budget, and this bill preserves the two-boat-per-year model that has enabled such great efficiencies," said Langevin in comments made on the House floor.
"We can and must make cuts to the defense budget, and I have offered ways to do just that. However, the Administration's plan to delay construction of the sub until after 2018 could increase the cost for taxpayers by $600 million," added Langevin following the bill's passage. "The proposed cut would put at risk the efficiencies and cost-saving already achieved by Electric Boat, which just recently delivered one of the subs under budget and a year ahead of schedule. This bill provides a fiscally responsible way to maintain the current production level."
In pushing for this legislation, Langevin has noted that the military's top leaders have affirmed this boat's vital role in our new national security strategy's focus on the Asia-Pacific region, where China is boosting its naval presence. In response to Langevin's concerns about the proposed cut, the leader of the Navy's Pacific fleet, Admiral Robert Willard, told the Armed Services Committee, "The Virginia class submarine is our newest, most formidable and provides increased capacities in some cases that we very much need."
Overall support for the NDAA
Langevin, who serves as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, also praised other provisions that he supported during the drafting of the bill, including a 1.7 percent pay raise for our troops as well as continued benefits like bonuses and access to family housing.
Furthermore, he worked with Emerging Threats and Capabilities Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to increase resources for Special Operations Forces, which will receive a boost for intelligence gathering and other activities in recognition of their efforts to carry out targeted attacks on the most dangerous terrorist cells.
Other Langevin-Authored Provisions
In addition, the NDAA includes measures Langevin authored to address cybersecurity and promising military technology vital to future efforts. One section of the bill encourages the Department of Defense (DOD) to work with Cyber Centers of Excellence, which include the University of Rhode Island, to defend our electric grid and other vital industries against cyber threats. Partnering with experts in higher education would have the added effect of improving training of our cyber workforce.
Another provision calls for DOD to further its efforts to develop directed energy technologies, which include technologies that could destroy or disable enemy military systems without the high cost, and in some cases collateral damage, of current kinetic weapons. The department would be required to perform assessments of these laser and high-power microwave technologies to examine which technologies have sufficiently progressed to the point at which we can leverage past investments and deploy operationally capable systems.
Langevin stressed that, while it was critical for the bill to move forward, he would continue his work to improve it before final language reaches the President's desk. In its current form, the legislation does not address cybersecurity for government and critical infrastructure networks even as cyber threats are fast becoming our country's biggest security challenge. The House Rules Committee disallowed consideration of amendments Langevin authored, which would have ensured better security for government agencies through the creation of a National Office for Cyberspace in the Executive Branch, and for critical infrastructure, by allowing the creation of minimum safety standards for vital systems like the power grid.
"It appears that the Majority Leadership has decided to limit what areas of cybersecurity they will consider," said Langevin, also referencing a decision by top Republicans to deny a vote on a bipartisan critical infrastructure bill last month. "Time is not on our side as we are already experiencing the results of lax cybersecurity. Sensitive government and military information has been taken, defense sector research and development has been stolen by foreign competitors, and our critical infrastructure's control systems have been compromised. I will continue to take every opportunity to push for these vital measures."
Langevin additionally expressed dismay at the fiscally irresponsible approach taken by Republicans in violation of the Budget Control Act that resulted from last summer's debt debate. In total, the NDAA allocates $8 billion more than allowed under that agreement.
For example, Langevin fought to cut $369 million provided to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for nuclear weapons activities. The Congressman pointed to testimony by NNSA Administrator Tom D'Agonstino stating his agency can't spend the money and that NNSA can handle all of its responsibilities to maintain the country's weapons and do necessary assessments without it.
In addition, Langevin strongly objected to an amendment passed by Committee Republicans that would prevent gay and lesbian couples from getting married or hosting "marriage-like" ceremonies on military installations.
He was also disappointed that the House voted down an effort led by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) to allay concerns about the scope of current executive powers in detaining individuals under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Langevin favored the addition of language explicitly prohibiting indefinite detention of and use of military custody for individuals detained on US soil under AUMF and guaranteeing rights of due process and access to the federal court system.