Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, helped the committee pass legislation early Thursday morning that included important measures he backed to provide our service members the resources they need to carry out their missions and support their families. The Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is the annual blueprint for defense programs and funding levels.
"While I will work to address specific concerns as the process continues, it is critical to move forward with this bipartisan bill, which will ensure our support for the men and women in uniform who are sacrificing every day on our behalf," said Langevin, the Ranking Member on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities. "I proudly support the 1.8 percent pay raise for our troops and efforts to improve overall force readiness in this fiscally constrained environment.
"In addition, I was proud to work on the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee with Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to increase resources for our Special Operations Forces, which provide critical capabilities as we confront shifting threats and unconventional battlefields, and to support our efforts in the cybersecurity realm."
Langevin championed the inclusion of cybersecurity provisions which would incentivize the adoption of new cybersecurity standards, ensure that US Cyber Command has the proper authorities and personnel, and coordinate cybersecurity efforts with related disciplines such as electronic warfare.
Langevin also strongly supported the bill's inclusion of the Overseas Sensitive Military Operations Act, which he co-led with Thornberry and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA). This language will increase Congressional oversight of targeted lethal operations by the U.S. military overseas, require a report outlining all legal and policy considerations relating to the use of force by the U.S. military against terrorists overseas, and codify in-depth quarterly updates to the defense committees on counterterrorism operations by the U.S. military.
"Oversight is a cornerstone of our Congressional responsibility, and we must ensure that the use of capture or lethal operations, including drone strikes, pass the highest level of constitutional muster and are consistent with our values and civil liberties," said Langevin.
In addition, the committee-passed measure will ensure that the peerless Virginia Class Submarine continues to be built at a rate of two boats per year. Langevin has urged his colleagues for many years to recognize that a full complement of the submarines, which have been built in Rhode Island ahead of schedule and under budget, are critical to our national security, particularly in the important Asia-Pacific region. The measure also supports the development of capabilities such as the Virginia Payload Module, which will be a crucial future capability, and the Ohio Replacement Program, which will be the backbone of the future nuclear deterrent.
Citing his deep concerns about the prevalence of sexual assault in the military, Langevin expressed his support for language in the bill designed to confront this epidemic. The measure strips commanding officers of the unilateral authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction and requires that service members found guilty of sexual offenses be dismissed or dishonorably discharged. It also enhances training requirements for attorneys involved in such cases, provides legal assistance for victims, and ensures that they don't risk reprisal for reporting incidents of sexual assault. Langevin cautioned, however, that far more must be done to address this troubling issue.
Amendments Offered by Langevin
The following provisions were successfully offered by Congressman Langevin during consideration of the bill:
An amendment providing for independent cost estimates of National Nuclear Security Agency programs that have experienced massive cost growth, delays, or de-scoping since their original estimates, such as the B61 life extension program, the Y-12 enrichment plant, the W79 warhead, and the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) facility;
An amendment, known as "fly before you buy," recommending that, before the Department of Defense can procure additional ground-based interceptors equipped with Capability Enhancement (CE) II exoatmospheric kill vehicle, a successful operational flight test of the interceptor should occur;
An amendment requiring the Director of the Missile Defense Agency to report on the agency's plans and timeline for when the cost estimates underlying the resource baselines reported in the annual Ballistic Missile Defense System Accountability Report will be considered "high quality" according to Government Accountability Office (GAO) standards;
An amendment requiring a report on actions being taken to address the recommendations within the GAO report on Defense Forensics; and
An amendment requiring that the defense committees be briefed on the current inventory of, plans for, upkeep costs, and associated costs of surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors.
Langevin also advocated for provisions included in the bill to strengthen K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education; support distributed energy generation, such as fuel cells and renewable energy; and support Unmanned Undersea Vehicles.
Following the committee's approval of the overall legislation by a vote of 59-2, Langevin stressed that he would continue working to alter some disappointing segments of the bill before it reaches the President's desk. He expressed particular dismay at fiscally irresponsible spending added by the Republican majority, including wasteful spending that the Department of Defense does not need and did not request.
He also voiced continuing concern over the President's authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Langevin favors the addition of language to the NDAA explicitly prohibiting military commissions and indefinite detention for individuals detained in the United States under AUMF and guaranteeing rights of due process and access to the federal court system.