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Chris V.
Democrat MD 8

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  • National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

    by Representative Chris Van Hollen

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    VAN HOLLEN of maryland in the house of representatives Thursday, December 12, 2013 Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of final passage of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act. I commend Chairman McKeon, Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Smith, and Ranking Member Inhofe for crafting a bipartisan bill that both strengthens the security of our nation and provides for vital programs that benefit our men and women in uniform and their civilian colleagues.

    While not perfect, today's compromise legislation makes many key improvements over the Defense Authorization bill that the House voted on earlier this year. I am particularly encouraged that the final agreement we voted on today includes $80.7 billion in funding for overseas contingency operations (OCO), which is in line with the Pentagon's request. This is an important change from the $85.8 billion that was included in the House-passed authorization in June. Today's bill provides sufficient funds to fully meet the President's FY 2014 request for the war in Afghanistan while ensuring that the overseas contingency operations account will not become a slush fund for unrequested defense spending.

    The final agreement also eases restrictions on the ability of DoD to transfer Guantanamo detainees and takes an important step in addressing our indefinite detention policy there. In particular, I am pleased that this bill drops a provision that would have barred the use of funds to transfer prisoners to Yemen and authorizes the Pentagon to transfer detainees to other foreign countries under certain conditions. More needs to be done when addressing our indefinite detention policy, but provisions such as these represent significant progress.

    I am also encouraged by the changes this bill makes with regards to how the military responds to sexual assault cases. It adopts Senate language to bar individuals from joining the military if they have been convicted of a sex-related offense; it imposes a minimum sentence of dishonorable discharge or dismissal on those found guilty; and it prohibits commanders from dismissing a court martial finding or reducing the offense level of guilty findings.

    Finally, the compromise bill does make some progress on allowing the Department of Defense to execute the New START Treaty. Specifically, it allows DoD to begin planning and preparation for implementing the force structure to meet the required limits of the New START Treaty. However, it still goes too far in limiting the President's ability to fully implement the treaty and set the country's nuclear policy.

    I am also disappointed that this legislation authorizes the establishment of a missile defense site on the East Coast that the Pentagon continues to say is unnecessary. This provision disregards the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and seeks to tie the President's hands in determining military requirements in other parts of the world. This bill also contains provisions which ignore DoD recommendations and continues to fund unrequested weapons systems and military aircraft, including the M1A2 Abrams tank, the C-130 AMP, and the UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter.

    Despite these reservations, this compromise legislation is a marked improvement over the bill the House passed earlier this year. It contains many important provisions that will strengthen our national security while also providing for our troops and their families.


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