National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013--Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:  John McCain III
Date: Dec. 21, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Under the scenario as envisioned by the argument made by the Senator from Kentucky that if an American citizen is overseas, as al-Awlaki was in Yemen, and we took a drone and killed him, which was a decision made by the President of the United States----


Mr. McCAIN. But if al-Awlaki had been in the United States of America, a citizen engaged in the same activities that justified him being killed, then Mr. al-Awlaki would have been entitled to his Miranda

rights, a trial by jury, habeas corpus, all that as if he were treated as an American citizen. I don't think many people would quite understand that distinction of geography.


Mr. McCAIN. If the Senator will yield further, there is every indication in the Middle East and around the world that we see that al-Qaida is on the way back, far from being defeated.

I just wish to make an additional comment to my friend, Senator Levin, the chairman, whom I have had the honor of bringing these bills to the floor with and working together with for 25 years. I was tempted to leave it unresponded to, but a statement the Senator from Kentucky made: They were sneakier than we were--I have to say to the chairman, I don't think the chairman has ever conducted our committee and our deliberations and our work on the floor and in conference in any way as being sneaky. I categorically reject that kind of comment, and I don't think it is worthy of the performance the Senator from Michigan has provided to this committee.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Arkansas for his enormous contributions to the deliberations and work of our committee. I understand the frustration he feels, and we have promised, as Senator Levin and I have promised a number of Members on both sides of the Capitol, we will have extensive hearings on this whole issue of Guard-Air Force relationships and force structure for the 21st century. We appreciate his commitment to his outstanding members of the Guard.

Mr. President, I rise to support the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act conference report. This will be the 51st consecutive year the Congress will pass legislation authorizing the budget of the Department of Defense and supporting our men and women in uniform.

I thank the members of the Armed Services Committee for their hard work, especially my colleague and friend, Senator Carl Levin. Carl and I have worked together for many years on this committee, the last 6 as chairman and ranking member. In that time, Carl has demonstrated a thoughtful approach to defense oversight and legislating. His genial disposition--which I believe complements my own temperament well--masks resolute support for a strong national defense and a tenacious will ensure that defense dollars are wisely spent. Carl, you are a trusted partner and a patriot.

This conference report is the product of 10 months of legislative effort, including 53 hearings on the full range of national security priorities. After marking up the President's defense budget request in May, the committee unanimously reported a bill to the Senate on June 4. Six months to the day later, the full Senate passed the bill 98 to 0. In a hopeful sign of the return of regular order to the Chamber, we passed the bill after 33 hours of debate and an open process that resulted in 397 amendments filed, of which 143 were included in the Senate-passed bill.

Our use of an open amendment process on the Senate floor demonstrated that when it comes to addressing national defense, the Senate can still work together in a bipartisan manner. However, before we engage in too much self-congratulation, we should ask ourselves why we are concluding the most important annual authorization bill 3 months after the fiscal year began, and why we have yet to enact a single appropriations bill for any Department or agency of government. The Congress has been caught in so many political impasses of late that we have effectively abrogated our responsibility to provide for the timely authorization and appropriation of Federal programs. The result is increased cost, decreased efficiency, and our willful enabling of dysfunction in government. We can and must do better.

The Defense authorization conference report before the Senate provides for the continued readiness of our Armed Forces and the well-being of servicemembers and their families. It authorizes pay and benefits, research and development, weapons procurement, and military construction projects, and contains provisions designed to improve acquisition and contracting. It also provides the resources, training, equipment, and authorities necessary for our military to continue supporting the Afghanistan National Security Forces as they assume increased responsibility throughout Afghanistan.

This conference report also contains tough sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Iran continues its reckless ways in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Just recently, the IAEA confirmed that Iran is expected to double the number of centrifuges at its underground enrichment site to 1,400. One provision in this report, originally sponsored by Senators Kirk and Menendez, designates Iran's energy, shipping, and ship-building sectors as entities of proliferation concern, subjecting many transactions with these entities to sanction. It would impose sanctions on persons supplying to Iran certain listed materials relevant to these sectors, to certain Iranian Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, or to be used in connection with certain Iranian military programs. Finally, it would designate the Iranian state broadcasting company as a human rights abuser for airing forced confessions and show trials; preventing other entities from doing business with it; and banning any travel to the United States.

This conference report also contains a provision that authorizes an increase of up to 1,000 marines for the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. The tragic events in Benghazi on September 11 demonstrate that the security environment facing our diplomatic corps is as dangerous as ever. This provision will provide for the end-strength and resources necessary to support an increase in Marine Corps security at locations identified by the Secretary of State to be at risk of terrorist attack. Such an increase was also recommended by the Accountability Review Board--the independent panel convened by Secretary Clinton to investigate the events surrounding the Benghazi attack.

The murder of innocents continues in Syria, with over 40,000 people murdered by the Assad regime. This conference report contains a provision that requires the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to submit a comprehensive report identifying the limited military activities that could deny or degrade the ability of the Assad regime to use air power against civilians and opposition groups. This provision explicitly notes that it neither authorizes the use of military force nor serves as a declaration of war against Syria.

In the area of military personnel, the conference report provides a 1.7-percent pay raise for servicemembers, and over 30 types of incentives aimed at strengthening enlistment and retention programs. It reinforces Department of Defense programs to prevent sexual assault and will improve the care and management of wounded warriors and those transitioning to civilian life after military service.

The report also recognizes that, in an era of fiscal austerity, the Department of Defense must reduce costs wherever possible, including force structure by, for example, approving nearly all of the fiscal year 2013 increment of the President's proposed reduction of 123,900 military personnel over the next 5 years. But it also requires a similar reduction in civilian and contractor personnel over that same time period.

In addition, the report acknowledges a revised plan by the Air Force to reduce its force structure and retire or divest military aircraft in order to respond to defense budget cuts proposed by the administration. While my State of Arizona fared better than many States, the Air Force's plan includes a cost-saving proposal to convert the manning of an A-10 Warthog training squadron based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson from the active component to the Reserve, resulting in a decrease of approximately 130 personnel assigned to the base. I support the need for the military services to find ways to reduce costs and realize that we all will have to bear the burden of the impact of reduced defense spending.

Despite modest improvements in recent defense acquisitions, the Department has much work to do to improve its ability to identify and reduce waste. This conference report contains a number of provisions intended to improve oversight on defense contracting, including helping to detect and prevent human trafficking in government contracting. There are also provisions that would help ensure that the Department becomes fully auditable by 2017, as required under law, while improving procurement of the business systems it needs to become auditable. Other provisions help reform how the Federal Government conducts procurement during contingency operations and help ensure that certain whistleblowers who identify waste, fraud, and abuse are protected. The conference report also increases transparency into shipbuilding programs, including Ford Class aircraft carriers and Littoral Combat Ships.

Another important provision in this report addresses cybersecurity, by requiring consultation with Congress if a decision is made to establish U.S. Cyber Command as a unified command and that defense contractors notify the Department of Defense of any network intrusions.

Still another provision in the report requires that, following a decision by the President to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff submit to Congress his assessment of the risk of that force reduction to our mission and security interests.

This report also requires the Secretary of Defense to submit to Congress a report on the investment plan and resources needed to carry out the U.S. strategy in Asia. I remain uncertain that the Department's plan for the realignment of U.S. military forces in the Asia Pacific Region is adequately supported by budgets and resources in future years. The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report in August 2012 that raised concerns about whether the plans and strategy proposed by the Department earlier this year are adequately supported by budgets and resources in future years.

Another provision helps protect the Navy's rich tradition of vessel naming. The name the Navy selects for a vessel should not be tarnished in any way by controversy. Unfortunately, controversy has surrounded some of the Navy's recent vessel-naming choices. This bill, therefore, sets forth appropriate and necessary standards, grounded in historical practice, to guide the Secretary of the Navy's decisions on future vessel naming, and requires that the Secretary seek the approval of the congressional defense committees before announcing or assigning a vessel's name.

A particularly important provision gives priority to the Forest Service and Coast Guard to acquire surplus Air Force aircraft, allowing the Forest Service to strengthen its fire suppression capability.

This conference report also directs the Secretary of Defense to designate assignment of military officers as instructors on the faculty of West Point, the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy as the equivalent of a joint duty assignment to satisfy joint duty requirements.

Finally, this report extends for another year important prohibitions and restrictions on the transfer and release of military detainees from Guantanamo, and the construction or modification of facilities in the U.S. to house them. It also establishes congressional notification requirements for military detainees held on naval vessels and for the release of third-country nationals held in military detention in Afghanistan. In addition, it clearly affirms that nothing in last year's defense authorization bill or the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force restricts or denies a person's existing habeas corpus rights or any other constitutional right.

As we look forward to Christmas, I remind my fellow Members to remember the beneficiaries of this legislation--the men and women of our Armed Forces, who serve our Nation bravely and selflessly. Passing this conference report is the very least we can do for so many who are willing to give all they have to defend our Nation.

I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the conference report of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Finally, I would like to thank the ``small but mighty'' Senate Armed Services Committee Republican staff, who have worked tirelessly and effectively in support of me and our members. These loyal staff members, many of whom have served on the committee staff for many years, deserve our sincere appreciation for their dedication to national security. They are Adam Barker, Pablo Carrillo, Chris Brose, Lauren Davis, Church Hutton, Daniel Lerner, Greg Lilly, Elizabeth Lopez, Lucian Niemeyer, Bryan Parker, Ann Elise Sauer, and Diana Tabler.

Mr. President, again, with great reluctance, I thank our staff who have done such a wonderful job. They really have done great. As I say, I am very reluctant to admit it, but we could not have gotten here without their hard work on both sides of the aisle.


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