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Conference Report or H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McKEON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report. As you know, the NDAA is the key instrument by which the Congress fulfills its primary constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense.

This year will mark the 51st straight year we've successfully completed our work. We have long prided ourselves on our ability to reach across the aisle and build strong bipartisan legislation on behalf of our troops. This year is no exception.

The bill authorizes $552.2 billion for national defense and $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations. In fact, though our troops are at war and a significant share of our equipment inventory is exceeding retirement age, this year's funding is a reduction in real terms from last year.

Recognizing the magnitude of the cuts imposed upon the military over the past year is important. We must acknowledge the significant contribution defense has already made to deficit reduction. Half of the savings has come out of defense, even though the defense accounts for only 17 percent of the overall budget.

Yet in a matter of days, sequestration will go into effect and, without further action, will do incredible injury to a military that took generations to build. It will take generations to fix. And the blow will not come from an enemy, but from our own inability to fulfill the basic obligations of governance. That is why I am pleased that today the House not only considers this critical piece of legislation, but will also vote--once more--to stop sequestration. It's imperative that both the President and the Senate show similar leadership and resolve sequestration before the end of this year.

Despite these challenges, this conference agreement ensures that we can safeguard military readiness in a time of declining budgets and increased strains on our Armed Forces. We support missile defense, global strike, strategic and tactical airlift, and were able to preserve critical military capabilities. The bill supports pay and benefits for our military and their families, including a 1.7 percent pay raise, and rejects administration proposals to significantly accelerate increases in TRICARE pharmacy copays for our retirees.

Unfortunately, there has been some inaccurate reporting regarding our detainee provisions. The protections included in the House-passed bill have been preserved in the conference agreement, and we worked closely during the conference negotiations with our House colleagues, who exercised leadership on this issue, to ensure that we retain their support. We did not include an amendment adopted 2 weeks ago on the Senate floor because we could not reach consensus on what the effect of the language would be.

Rest assured, this conference report ensures that every American's constitutional rights, including the right to habeas corpus, remain unaffected, and every American can challenge the legality of their detention in Federal court. The ``great writ'' of habeas corpus is a citizen's most fundamental protection against unlawful deprivations of liberty. This reflects a consensus built after exhaustive debate over several years in both Chambers.

The conference report covers many more critical issues, but I will close in the interest of time. Before I do, I would like to thank all our Members for their hard work, but in particular, my partner on the committee, Ranking Member Smith from Washington.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. McKEON. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Kentucky for the purpose of a colloquy.

Mr. WHITFIELD. Well, thank you, Chairman McKeon, and I certainly want to thank you and Mr. Smith and your staffs for the hard work to complete this 51st consecutive defense authorization bill. As you know, the Energy and Commerce Committee has an interest in a number of provisions included in the bill. One of the provisions is section 3113, which modifies section 4102 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act.

My understanding of the Armed Services Committee's intention with regard to section 3113 is that, one, you want to reinvigorate a dormant statutory council by updating it and transforming it; and, two, you want to clean up the U.S. Code by eliminating obsolete language referring to the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Defense Programs.

Is that your understanding, as well?

Mr. McKEON. That's correct. This council will be an important mechanism for improving communication, and the rest of section 4102 is defunct.

Mr. WHITFIELD. It is also my understanding that it was not the intent in section 3113 to affect the Secretary of Energy's management, planning and oversight authority, or delegation authority, related to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Is that your understanding, as well?

Mr. McKEON. That's correct. To further affirm that, I've sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy making clear the striking of this section in no way affects the Secretary's authorities.

Mr. WHITFIELD. Well, Chairman McKeon, I want to thank you very much. The Energy and Commerce Committee was concerned about the elimination of portions of the underlying section, and it is my understanding that you will commit to working with the Energy and Commerce Committee next year to restore pertinent portions of section 4102 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act.

Mr. McKEON. Yes, you have my commitment and my thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Mr. WHITFIELD. Well, thank you. It's a joy working with you, and, once again, congratulations.

Mr. McKEON. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I yield 2 minutes to my friend and colleague, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Forbes).


Mr. McKEON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time.

Mr. Speaker, I once again rise in support of this bipartisan fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Conference Report, and I concur totally with the concluding remarks of Mr. Smith. Our staff has done a fantastic job. And I have enjoyed working with him, and we will continue to work together in a bipartisan way.

This NDAA bill passed the Armed Services Committee on a vote of 56-5. It passed the full House by nearly 300 votes; and, likewise, the Senate adopted its version of the bill unanimously.

However, I fully acknowledge we had to tackle tough issues in a very compressed timeframe, as Mr. Smith pointed out. Every one of us could find something in this bill that we would rather change, but none of us can deny that this bill has been exhaustively debated. It's the only major authorization bill that's been able to proceed through regular order in both the House and the Senate this year.

The House considered 303 amendments, between the committee and the floor. The Senate considered at least 151 amendments. We've all had a chance to have our say on this bill and to have the Congress act its will.

I urge my colleagues to join me in ushering this bill across the finish line and vote ``yes'' on adoption of the conference report. This is a good piece of legislation that's critically needed by our troops.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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