U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today released the following prepared remarks for the committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Once again, it’s an honor to sit next to you as the Ranking Member of this Committee and work on this vital piece of legislation.
“This mark reflects our committee’s strong and continued support for the brave men and women of the United States Armed Services. Before we begin, I would like to highlight several key measures included in this full committee Chairman’s mark.
“Foremost, it addresses many of this committee’s priorities in supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces, their spouses and families. Among the important measures contained in that report are a 1.9 percent basic pay raise.
“This mark does an admirable job dealing with some of our greatest national security challenges. Addressing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this mark authorizes the Fiscal Year 2011 Overseas Contingency Operations or OCO, or what was previously referred to as the war-time supplemental funding request.
“With respect to Afghanistan, this mark updates reporting requirements, including asking for the conditions and criteria that will be used to measure progress, instead of allowing the ticking Washington political clock to determine our end state. I am very pleased that the Chairman and our colleagues on the committee joined us in ensuring that life-saving combat enablers—such as force protection, Medical Evacuation, and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities—are deployed in time to fully support the 30,000 additional troops scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan by this summer.
“This provision, along with a reporting requirement on how the Department of Defense is addressing the indirect fire threat on U.S. Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan, are only first steps to supporting General McChrystal and our deployed troops. But they are important first steps in getting the resources to theater so our troops can accomplish their mission with the least possible risk.
“With respect to Pakistan, I support the Administration’s request to extend the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF) for another year. I continue to question the rationale behind moving the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) to the State Department, especially when Department of Defense has proven its ability to execute similar programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am happy to see that this Committee will continue to monitor the management of PCCF so we can ensure the Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has the flexibility and speed he needs to train and equip Pakistani security forces.
“As in previous marks, the committee continues to address the Department’s global train and equip authorities. We’ve worked together to ensure these authorities allow the Department to get ahead of our most important national security challenges. I commend the Chairman for working to ensure that 1206 funds will be used to assist the Yemen counter-terrorism unit fight al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula. This reinforces my view that building partnership capacity programs is an essential tool for Combatant Commanders.
“Other commendable initiatives in this mark include provisions that make significant contributions to the National Guard and Reserve Equipment account and fund the F136 alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Also worthy of mention is that the mark takes steps to address some of the unfunded requests of the Services Chiefs.
“While there are a lot of excellent initiatives in this mark, this remains imperfect legislation.
“With respect to detainee policy, this Mark could have taken a stronger stand on preventing the transfer of terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay into the United States—either for confinement or trial. Too many former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield and are actively trying to harm Americans. We need to keep terrorists off of our soil, not fight to get them here.
“Similarly, this mark could have taken prudent steps to ensure we better defend America from a position of strength, rather than a position of weakness. With respect to Iran, we continue to see Tehran flout its international obligation not to pursue nuclear weapons, while the Administration continues to rely on possible U.N. sanctions and an engagement strategy that has not yielded results. Requiring the Department of Defense to engage in robust strategic planning will only serve to strengthen our Iran policy.
“In the nuclear policy arena, we need to adopt policies that strengthen our security, not disarm it. Time and time again our nuclear stockpile has protected our shores by acting as a clear deterrent to our adversaries. The administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review changes our nation’s long-standing policy of calculated ambiguity to a policy that takes options off the table in protecting the United States and our allies from potential aggressors.
“Likewise, our missile defense policies must support the design and deployment of a comprehensive missile defense system capable of protecting the U.S. homeland, our deployed military forces, and our allies. We need a detailed plan for the new European missile defense phased adaptive approach (PAA) and we need to continue investing in long range missile defenses to ensure our deployment timetable matches the threats posed by Iranian capabilities. This would include the development of ground based interceptors and maintaining all missile fields in Alaska and California.
“Much of this boils down to our defense strategy. We all agree that our defense strategy should be driven by our defense needs—not solely by the budget. Yet, the Administration sent to Congress a QDR that provided the force structure of 2009 instead of a projected force structure to defeat the threats of 2029, as required by the statute. We need to take additional steps to reshape the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which was designed to forecast future threats and shape the Pentagon’s investment decisions to meet those challenges.
“Finally, we need to take additional steps to ensure our military personnel and their families receive the support they have earned. A major disappointment is that once again the committee and House leadership were unable to find the mandatory spending offsets needed to eliminate the Widow’s Tax – a tax that occurs because survivors must forfeit most or all of their Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity to receive Dependency Indemnity Compensation. Nor were we able to provide for concurrent receipt of military disability retired pay and VA disability pay, as proposed by the President.
“I know that Chairman Skelton has attempted to find the offsets, but so far, despite the House approval of trillions in spending that is not offset, this body has been unable or unwilling to find the means to support widows and disabled veterans.
“With that said, I’d like to thank Chairman Skelton for putting together this mark. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve this package, as appropriate, and pass this bill.”