BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this body for 50 years has passed the National Defense Authorization Act, and for 50 years, after conference, it has reached the President's desk and been signed by the President of the United States.
There are many pressing issues that confront the Senate, the Congress, and the Nation. But I don't think we should forget that our first obligation is to secure the safety of our citizens, and that can only be done by training, arming, and equipping the men and women who are serving in the military.
Mr. President, a couple of months ago, through the Senate Armed Services Committee, we passed the National Defense Authorization Act, and it has some very important components in it to continue to support the men and women who are serving, and their families, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need to defend this Nation.
We are still in conflict in Afghanistan. We are on the brink of a crisis with Iran over nuclear weapons. We have adjusted our presence in Asia in response to the rising influence of China. The uprising in Syria threatens to spill over into neighboring countries. And, of course, the situation in Egypt is clearly one of significant question as to how the Egyptian Government and people will progress. Some would argue that in many respects the State of Israel is under more threat than at any time since perhaps the 1973 war. So we live in a dangerous world. We live in a very uncertain time. And it seems to me our priorities should be to bring the national defense authorization bill to the floor.
The bill received a unanimous vote in committee by both Republicans and Democrats. I am proud of the relationship the chairman and I have developed over many years of working together. I am confident that despite the fact there will be hundreds of amendments filed, we can work through those and work through the process, as we have in the past, and bring the Defense authorization bill to a conclusion and to conference with the House and then signed by the President of the United States. We owe this to the men and women who are serving in the military. It is not our right, it is our obligation to get the authorization bill to the President's desk.
We may have significant disagreements, but for 50 years this body has passed the Defense authorization bill and it has been signed by the President of the United States. We are in some danger of not getting this done this year when we look at the remaining weeks we have in session and the number of challenges that are before us. So I think it is time we step back and look at the requirement to pass this legislation.
I have some sympathy for the majority leader in that there is great difficulty in the way we are doing business nowadays. But I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will all recognize the importance of this legislation. We must urge Members on both sides to set aside their own personal agendas and do what is necessary for the defense of this Nation.
The bill provides $525 billion for the base budget of the Defense Department, $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan and around the world, and $17.8 billion to maintain our nuclear deterrent. The bill authorizes $135 billion for military personnel, including the cost of pay, allowances, bonuses, and a 1.7-percent across-the-board pay increase for all members of the uniformed services--something I think all of us would agree is well-earned. That is, by the way, also the President's request. It improves the quality of life for the men and women in the Active and Reserve components of the All-Volunteer Force and helps to address the needs of the wounded servicemembers and their families.
As we and our NATO partners reduce operations in Afghanistan, the importance of transitioning responsibility to Afghan forces increases, as does the need to provide for the protection of our deployed troops. This legislation provides our service men and women with the resources, training, equipment, and authorities they need to succeed in combat and stability operations. It enhances the capability of U.S. forces to support the Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan local police as they assume responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan by the year 2014.
Weapons systems modernization is essential to the future viability of our national security strategy, and this legislation provides for substantial improvement of legacy ships, aircraft, and vehicles, while authorizing research and development investments to ensure our troops remain the best equipped in the world. The bill authorizes the President's request for missile defense and accelerates support for our allies, including the joint U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs, such as the Arrow weapon system and the David's Sling short-range missile defense system. It also provides multiyear procurement authority for the Chinook helicopters, V-22 aircraft, Virginia-class submarines, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, reflecting estimated savings of more than $7 billion over 5 years. And none of this can take place unless we pass the authorization bill.
The committee also sought to improve the ability of the armed services to counter nontraditional threats, including terrorism, cyber warfare, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I believe the key battlefield of the 21st century will be cyber warfare, and I am concerned about our ability to fight and win in this new domain. To improve the Defense Department's cyber capabilities, this legislation consolidates defense networks to improve security and management, which will permit personnel to be reassigned to support offensive cyber missions, which are understaffed.
The issue of nuclear proliferation is addressed, and other programs to counter the flow of improvised explosive devices and curtail the trade of worldwide narcotics are authorized in this bill.
Especially important are provisions to enhance the capability of the security forces of allied and friendly nations to defeat al-Qaida, its affiliates, and other violent extremist organizations. The Armed Services Committee extended the Defense Department's authority to train and equip forces in Yemen to counter al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and forces in east Africa to counter al-Qaida affiliates and elements of al-Shabaab.
To ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars and compliance with law and regulation, the bill promotes aggressive and thorough oversight of the Department's programs and activities. This includes adding funding for the Department of Defense inspector general. The Department of Defense inspector general reviews resulted in an estimated $2.6 billion in savings in 2011--a return on investment of more than $8 for every $1 spent. The committee mark also codifies the 2014 goal for the Department of Defense to achieve an auditable statement of budgetary resources.
Further, it improves the cost-effectiveness of DOD contracting by limiting the use of cost-type contracts for the production of major weapons systems. In addition, the bill includes a series of wartime contracting provisions
drawn from the McCaskill-Webb bill implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. In that vein, the bill enhances protections for contractors that blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in defense contracts.
Finally, this legislation requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a detailed report to Congress on the impact budget sequestration will have on military readiness and national security. Similar legislative language has been passed twice by this body and by the House of Representatives. The Congress does not yet have an accurate understanding of the implications of sequester beyond an assertion that the cuts would be ``devastating,'' which is the word used by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and nearly every other defense official we have queried. We must have this information as we begin the work of developing a balanced approach to deficit reduction that replaces sequestration with a responsible plan for getting our Nation's finances in order.
I want to repeat, Mr. President, that for 50 years, I am proud to say--and in the years I have been in this, obviously--we have successfully authorized the programs and policies of the Department of Defense. I am proud of what this committee has done. I am proud of what the Senate has done. I am proud of what the Congress has done and the Presidents these pieces of legislation have come before for their signature. Let's not allow the anticipation of an election to hinder our ability to act in the interests of the men and women who are so bravely serving our Nation.
I hope the majority leader, in consultation with the Republican leader, will come to an agreement so that we can have a date certain. And I can assure the leadership on both sides that Senator Levin and I will again be able to expedite this process, allowing amendments and debate as they are called for and at the same time come to a successful conclusion and make this the 51st year we have succeeded in doing what is necessary to fulfill our most solemn and important obligation, which is to do everything within our power to ensure the security of this Nation.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT