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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I too wish to congratulate the Senator from Oklahoma and Kay for their 54th wedding anniversary. It is quite a landmark for an outstanding couple. I hope they get to celebrate on their day. I think that probably, if we knew the final vote on this was going to be the end of the whole process before Christmas, it probably would include time yielded back. But if there are going to be a whole bunch of things thrown in that really have relatively little importance before the end of the year, the Senator probably won't get his wish. So I am hoping we can end it with this bill.

I rise to express my disappointment that this National Defense Authorization Act on which we will soon be having a final vote is the product of another deal instead of the result of discussion, debate, and amendment process on the floor. Once again, the Senate has failed to do its job. The Senate majority leader has blocked all but two amendments to this NDAA from consideration, and those were to prevent any other amendments from happening. That is not right. That is not the way we used to do it. If we want to know what is wrong with the Senate and why people of all political persuasions are upset with Congress, that is a big part of the answer right there--no amendments allowed.

Here we are at the end of the year--this didn't have to come at the end of the year. In fact, I never remember us debating it this late in the year.

Incidentally, this is the only committee that gets a bill every year. The other committees have to fight for some time and hopefully have a persuasive enough bill to get it. But every year I have been here, we have debated this National Defense Authorization Act, and it is important.

There are two primary things we are charged with, and one is spending for the United States and the other is national defense. And this is about the national defense. It shouldn't be crowded into 30 hours or even 1 week. There ought to be the ability to express what we think is important dealing with national defense, and we are not being allowed to do that.

This is an important bill for our country. There are a lot of important issues in it that we need to discuss. We haven't considered issues relating to our nuclear deterrent, to privacy concerns related to the National Security Administration, to detention of U.S. citizens, and the need to address sexual assault in the military, or a number of other important issues. In the past, we have spent multiple weeks on the Defense bill and considered dozens of amendments. That is what we should be doing this year too.

I understand we have come up against this December 31 deadline and how critical that is. That should not have happened. Our national security needs to be fully debated, and it needs to be debated by the whole Senate.

Every voice needs to be heard. That means every constituent out there whom we represent has to have at least an opportunity to have their interests reflected in this national bill. We all have some military in our States, and it is very important. That is how it is supposed to happen, and that is the way the Senate does its best work.

One of the things that have been holding it up, of course, are the nominations. Most of those nominations did not have urgency to them. They could have been done next year without hurting the United States at all--not the case with the National Defense Authorization Act. So we do not have priorities on what we are debating around here, and then we have limits because of the timeframe. It is not right.

One of those important issues we are skipping over is the nuclear deterrent. I offered several amendments on this issue because I believe the administration is playing a dangerous game with national security. The solution I proposed in my amendment was simple and straightforward. It would have ensured that American citizens and our allies would not be harmed by this administration's bad policy decisions--both today and for years to come--by ensuring that any further reductions in our nuclear arsenal could not be done by the administration unilaterally.

As background, here in the Senate I have the honor of representing the city of Cheyenne, WY, which is the home of F.E. Warren Air Force Base and the 90th ICBM Missile Wing. Those who proudly serve there have an awesome responsibility and a history of doing excellent work. We have entrusted the most powerful of our weaponry to the best, to the most capable of managing these weapons in a thoroughly professional and reliable manner. Every day, the top-notch men and women who are stationed at F.E. Warren work together to maintain the world's most powerful military force, our ICBMs. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, they stand guard to ensure our safety and our freedom. They maintain a constant vigil from which they can never stand down because their mission is that critical. In a very real sense, that is why each one of us is able to sleep well at night. Moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas all across America know that when they tuck their kids in at night, someone is on duty and will continue to be watching through the lonely hours of the night to make sure their little ones are safe and secure.

Unfortunately, there are those in the administration who take the contributions of our military for granted. They do not have the sense of history that is needed to fully appreciate why these weapons were designed and put into operation in the first place. They do not see how much they are needed today and will still be needed tomorrow to ensure our future. They do not fully appreciate the key role they have played in the past either. They seem to think that nuclear weapons are part of a bygone era, a relic of the past that has not been needed since the Cold War ended.

The adoption of such a position is dangerous because it takes our position of strength for granted. What they fail to understand is the power of this deterrent and how it has kept us safe for decades. In the past, any nation that gave even a casual thought to threatening us or trying to do us harm had to quickly shelve those plans when the realization of what they would be up against was made clear. That is, after all, the point of having these weapons. That is one of the reasons why they are necessary. They have served us well ever since they were first deployed.

The administration's views on our nuclear deterrent should not come as a surprise to any of us who have watched the development of these ideas when they were first offered for consideration. We have seen President Obama promise to do all he can to reduce our nuclear arsenal--step by step. First, he rammed the New START treaty through the Senate by promising commitments that he ultimately did not keep. One of those was the promise to modernize our nuclear force, which we are still waiting on. I voted against ratification of the New START treaty because I believe maintaining a strong nuclear force is a critical part of protecting our country. It still is.

The Obama administration has stated its intention to reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads to as few as 1,000, which would be 550 fewer than is allowed under that New START treaty. What is more, in the factsheet on the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, it states that the President could go outside the formal treaty-making process and reduce our nuclear arsenal unilaterally. That has ``bad idea'' written all over it. It means the administration can still make drastic nuclear reductions even if Russia will not agree to do the same. Does that make any sense? Should we just bargain with ourselves? That is something which should give us all pause and encourage us to go on record as to what needs to be done to keep our people safe.

In case you think I am overreacting, last year President Obama was caught on an open microphone promising former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility to negotiate on nuclear defense issues after his election. Those comments are still before us, and they do not exactly instill trust and confidence that the President will not choose to bypass Congress and act unilaterally on nuclear reductions.

All we have to do is look around the world to see why we should be concerned. Everywhere we look, nations are looking to increase, not decrease, their weaponry. In fact, as the President makes plans for reducing our own nuclear arsenal, it appears Russia and China are looking for ways to modernize and update their own arsenals.

These are dangerous weapons, and we need to be certain we do everything we can to ensure that they continue to be fully monitored. They must never be used. But it seems to me that the best way to make certain they are never used is to be certain that no one would ever dare to think of using them against us or our allies.

The concerns I have that some other country might use these weapons first are increased, not decreased, when I see the administration sending signals that they might not wait for everyone to disarm; they might do it on their own first. It would be like taking your own team off the field and allowing the other team to score at will. Relying on the good will of the opponent rarely works, and it is clearly not a good strategy.

One final point. We are not the only ones who are relying on our nuclear arsenal for our safety and security. There are other countries that rely on the United States for their national security. If we make it clear that we

are dropping out of this vital source of our strength as a nation, this could encourage other countries to increase their own nuclear capability because they will suspect that they can no longer rely on us. Increasing the number of nations that have a nuclear capability is clearly something we dare not encourage.

Simply put, this is exactly what my amendment was trying to stop. It would have ensured that any further reductions in our nuclear arsenal could not be done on a unilateral basis by the President alone. Instead, any changes would have to follow the application of the treaty system, which would give the Senate an opportunity to weigh in on this matter again when a proposal in the form of a treaty is brought before us for our consideration.

Just as ridiculous, the President threatened a veto if the amendment were in the bill. Now, unfortunately, due to the majority leader's actions, we are not going to be able to debate this and other important issues like I mentioned before--the privacy issue at the National Security Agency, the NSA listening in on telephone calls; the detention of U.S. citizens; addressing sexual assault in the military; and a number of others.

For all of these reasons, I cannot support moving forward on the Defense bill. I hope that on our next Defense authorization bill we will all recognize the importance of being allowed to fully debate these issues, so we will not wait until the end of the year when there is this looming deadline regarding bonuses, so our men and women in uniform can continue to fulfill their mission of keeping our Nation safe, secure, and free, knowing what their future is.

Something as important as the Defense authorization bill must not be drafted or taken up for a vote until it has made it through the whole legislative process. The legislative process was created for a reason, and we do ourselves and our constituents and those who serve in our Armed Forces a disservice when we fail to make full use of it. The bill has not made it through each step of the process. In my opinion, that is a fatal flaw. We can do better. We need to do better. We better do better in the future.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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