09/13/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/14/2017 11:33
Mr. President, I rise to discuss the fiscal year 2018 national defense authorization bill, which was passed unanimously out of the Armed Services Committee on July 10. First, I would like to acknowledge Chairman McCain, whose leadership on this committee and in this body has been invaluable, indeed historic. His contribution, his indefatigable energy, his commitment to the men and women who serve us in uniform is something that has shaped this legislation and indeed shaped our country profoundly. Chairman McCain ensured the committee's thoughtful consideration of the President's request, which produced bipartisan legislation that I believe will improve the readiness, capabilities, and quality of life of our military personnel and their families.
I wish to highlight some key aspects of the bill, beginning with a central national security issue-North Korea. Kim Jong Un is intent on developing a nuclear weapon that can be mounted on the head of a missile and shot at the U.S. homeland. Unfortunately, there is no set of military options that lead to a quick and certain strategy on North Korea. Diplomatic engagement that leads to a freeze of North Korea's missile and nuclear programs is perhaps our best path forward. In order to bring North Korea to the table, we must reinforce our ballistic missile defense systems and demonstrate that all options, including military options, remain on the table. To that end, this bill authorizes additional funding above the budget request to make upgrades to our Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to protect the homeland and to buy 24 additional THAAD interceptors, a regional defensive system that we have deployed to the Republic of Korea.This bill also enhances our security cooperation in the Pacific by authorizing the Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative, which will help strengthen our posture in the region and provide additional support and security assistance to our partners and allies.
Another significant national security issue is the escalating threat from Russia's maligned influence activities. The nature and extent of this threat was brought home with Russia's interference in our 2016 elections, but our allies and partners in Europe have been dealing with this threat for many years now. This bill contains significant resources, through the European Deterrence Initiative and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to reinforce our military presence in Europe and build the capacity of the NATO alliance to counter Russia's efforts to intimidate and coerce its neighbors. The bill takes critical steps to prepare for any attempt by Russia to attack our democracy in next year's midterm elections. One provision states that it is the policy of the United States to respond, using all instruments of national power, to any and all cyber attacks that intend to cause significant harm to the Nation, including undermining U.S. democratic society. This is a clear message to Vladimir Putin that Kremlin influence is unacceptable and will be strongly answered. A second provision, which is an amendment I offered that was accepted in committee, would require the Secretary of Defense to create a task force to integrate all Department organizations responsible for what is called ''information warfare'' in order to achieve a unified and coherent capability to counter, deter, and conduct strategic information operations. The Department of Defense must play a vital role developing strategies and executing operations to counter and respond to Russia's aggression against America and our close allies in Europe. But efforts by the Department of Defense are not enough. It is essential to have a whole-of-government approach if we are to deal effectively with the multifaceted threat posed by Russia, as well as China, North Korea, Iran, and others against the West. We need to develop comprehensive and specific strategies, taking advantage of all the instruments of national power and the contributions of friends and allies to deter and respond to aggression in all of its forms. We need to bring together the authorities and capabilities of law enforcement, homeland defense, the military, and the intelligence community to confront cyber threats that recognize no organizational or functional boundaries. At the same time, we must improve how we work with the private sector,which owns and operates the critical infrastructure on which our democracy, our society, and our prosperity depend. This bill advances our goal of ensuring that we have the strategy, organization, and resources necessary to counter the complex challenge posed by Russia's maligned activities and the maligned activities of other state and nonstate actors. This legislation also provides needed authorities and funding for our military personnel who are engaged in operations abroad.
Through the support of our partners on the ground, we continue to make significant gains against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, our partners require sustained support to clear the remaining ISIS strongholds and ensure a sustainable security environment going forward. Therefore, this bill authorizes $1.8 billion to support the Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Programs. The bill also includes $4.9 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund to assist our Afghan partners as they continue to take the fight to the enemy while also working diligently to build and professionalize their security forces. This is a critical investment for the stability of the region and the security of the international community. With respect to our services, we have taken steps to improve their capabilities, their readiness, and their ability to fight and win. With respect to our Navy and Marine Corps, this bill represents a continuation of the efforts that are so important for improving their ability to address the challenges of this new century. The proposals would begin significant efforts to improve the readiness of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, ships, and weapons systems. It is clear that high operational tempo, coupled with limited resources for training and maintenance, contributed to the recent tragedies with the USS John S. McCain, the USS Fitzgerald, and the V-22 crash off the coast of Australia. First, we must recognize the sacrifice of sailors and marines and pay our respects to their families for the sacrifices they have given to this Nation. That sacrifice continues to impress all of us, with the contribution of everyone wearing the uniform of the United States, their dedication to their country, and their calls for renewed commitment by ourselves to work together to achieve the ends of this great Nation. We must prioritize resourcing for our military so we can ensure that our servicemembers have access to the best equipment and the best training possible so they can conduct these missions safely in spite of the very difficult challenges we face.
This bill provides significant investments in our next-generation Virginiaclass submarines to ensure our Navy remains dominant under the sea. It authorizes multiyear procurement contract authority and advanced procurement for up to 13 Virginia-class submarines. In addition, the bill adds $750 million for economic order quantity material for the Virginia-class Block V multiyear procurement program. Meeting today with the Secretary of the Navy, he once again reiterated that the Virginia-class submarine program, together with the Ohio replacement program, and the ballistic missile submarine program are the highest priorities of the U.S. Navy. This bill supports those high priorities. The Navy will be able to use this funding to expand the industrial base across the second-tier and third-tier contractors, anticipating an increase in production needed to increase submarine force levels. An additional $450 million is authorized to increase support for expanding the industrial base or for advance procurement to buy an additional Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2020. The bill provides authority for another multiyear contract for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program and provides the Navy the authority to buy as many as 15 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. It also adds $1.8 billion to buy a third destroyer in fiscal year 2018. The bill also authorizes $1 billion for incremental funding for construction of an amphibious ship and more than $1.2 billion for several auxiliary ship programs, including five surface connectors and one expeditionary sea base.
With respect to naval aviation, this bill also recommends significant increases for multiple programs. Notably, it authorizes 10 additional F/A-18 fighters, 10 F-35 fighter variants, 4 additional KC-130J tankers, and 6 additional P-8A submarine hunters. With respect to the Air Force, the bill also makes significant increases in authorization by adding an additional $10.4 billion for Air Force programs to purchase 14 additional F-35A fighters, 12 MC-130J aircraft, 3 additional KC- 46A tankers, and authorizing funding for replacement of the A-10. With respect to the Army, I am pleased that this bill also makes a number of important investments in Army modernization. It authorizes full funding for the Department's request for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters. In addition, the bill supports the Army's unfunded requirement for additional Apaches by including $312.7 million to procure additional helicopters. Likewise, the bill fully supports the Army's request for modernizing Army ground combat vehicles, including M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and the Stryker combat vehicle. The bill also includes funding to support Army unfunded requirements, including recapitalizing Abrams tanks and procuring a fourth upgraded set of Double V-Hull Strykers. Finally, this bill makes targeted reductions in Army network modernization programs, since Army Chief of Staff General Milley plans to make a decision soon on the way forward with regard to these programs. Once a decision has been made, it is my hope that the Army will provide the committee with a detailed plan for network modernization, to include details on the funding necessary for this approach. Our Special Operations Forces remain at the ''tip of the spear'' of our efforts to counter violent extremist groups. The bill fully funds the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, and includes an increase of approximately $85 million to help address unfunded requirements for additional intelligence collection, precision strike, undersea mobility, and communications capabilities.
Additionally, the bill includes new authority designed to support the ability of our special operators to work with partners to counter irregular warfare, or so-called gray zone challenges, posed by our adversaries. The bill authorizes funding to modernize our triad of nuclear-capable air, sea, and ground delivery platforms- the bedrock of our defense posture against an existential threat. The B-21 heavy bomber is authorized at the requested level to continue engineering, manufacturing, and development to be fielded in the mid to late 2020s. This heavy bomber will replace the dependable but aging B-52s, which were built in the 1960s. The committee is working with a team at the Government Accountability Office for rigorous oversight on the new bomber program. When the B-52 retires in the 2040 timeframe, its airframe will be approaching 100 years old, and the grandchildren of the original pilots will be flying the plane. Turning to the area of undersea deterrence, in order to maintain a seabased deterrent, the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class submarines must be replaced starting in 2027 due to the potential for hull fatigue. By then, the first Ohio submarine will be 46 years old-the oldest submarine to have sailed in our Navy in its history. The third leg of our triad, our landbased ICBMs, will not need to be replaced until the 2030s. We have authorized continued development of a replacement for this responsive leg of the triad, which acts as a counterbalance to hostile ICBMs. I know there is concern about Russia's violation of the IntermediateRange Nuclear Force Treaty, which is a foundational arms control treaty from the late 1980s. This committee has received classified briefings on the actions taken by Russia, and they are indeed serious. I urge all of my colleagues to request these classified briefings if they have not done so. While some have called for the United States to perform developmental testing of systems that are noncompliant with the treaty, this committee has pursued a cautious and measured approach of looking at what kinds of research within the confines of the treaty we can perform if called upon to counter this threat. Again, let me stress that I do not support withdrawing from the treaty, and our best approach is to bring the Russians back into compliance. With respect to energy use, which is an important aspect to the bottom line in the operational capabilities of our military, the bill contains several provisions that enhance how the Department pursues energy resilience, which directly supports readiness and mission assurance of our warfighters.
Additionally, this bill contains a requirement for a defense threat assessment and master plan on climate-related events and a comprehensive strategy and technology roadmap on how the Department can more effectively use water. In the area of science, technology, and innovation, I am pleased that this bill authorizes increases in funding for science and technology research efforts by over $375 million above the President's request, including a total of $2.3 billion for university research programs. These programs are critical to ensuring that our military retains its technological battlefield superiority in areas like cyber security, unmanned and robotic systems, high-energy lasers, space, and hypersonics.
The bill streamlines the ability to access expertise and technologies in our Nation's universities and small businesses, whose expertise and innovation is the cornerstone of the technologies on which our military depends. Additionally, it continues efforts to strengthen the capabilities of our defense labs and test ranges, including removing redtape that inhibits their effectiveness, and supporting their efforts to build world-class technical workforces. The bill also authorizes two new innovation offices, the Strategic Capabilities Office and the DIUx Silicon Valley office, with special authorities to hire the unique program management talent they need to execute their innovative activities. In the area of acquisition reform, I am pleased that the bill continues efforts to streamline procurement practices to support the Department's efforts to obtain the best goods, technologies, and services on a timely basis at fair and competitive prices. The bill includes provisions from Senator Warren and Senator Blumenthal to ensure that the Pentagon works with contractors to safeguard worker conditions. The bill also makes significant and needed changes to the way the Department buys, evolving toward more agile and effective commercial acquisition practices. These new practices should enable the Department to build and buy the most modern software and IT for our weapons systems, platforms, and business systems. The bill also includes a provision from Senator MCCASKILL that will provide more transparency and require more deliberate planning in the use of service contractors in order to control this rapidly growing part of the Pentagon budget.
In the area of Pentagon management, I am pleased that the bill includes provisions to improve financial stewardship to help the Pentagon get a clean audit opinion on its financial books. The Pentagon has been trying to obtain a clean audit opinion for 27 years, and the continual failure to do so calls into question its ability to steward the large funding increases proposed in this bill transparently and efficiently. This bill accomplishes much on behalf of our servicemembers and the Department of Defense. It authorizes a 2.1-percent pay raise for all servicemembers and reauthorizes a number of expiring bonus and special pay authorities to encourage enlistment, reenlistment, and continued service for ActiveDuty and Reserve component military personnel. The bill permanently extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance-scheduled to expire next year-provides $25 million for supplemental impact aid, and $10 million in impact aid for severe disabilities, including $5 million available for the Secretary to direct to schools to address areas with higher concentration of disabled military children. This legislation also enhances military family readiness by addressing the shortage of childcare workers and increasing flexibility for military families undergoing permanent change of station. A provision in the bill also addresses the Marine United situation by making the nonconsensual sharing of photos and videos of an individual's private anatomy or of sexually explicit conduct involving the individual a criminal offense under the UCMJ, even when the initial taking of the photo or video was consensual. Once again, this bill includes authorization for a needed package of healthcare reforms, including modest increases to working-age retiree healthcare cost shares, while ensuring that the cost share remain far below those required by civilian plans. It also requires the Department to establish a Medicare Advantage demonstration program for TRICARE For Life beneficiaries that will achieve better healthcare outcomes for beneficiaries with chronic health conditions as well as cost savings for the beneficiaries and for the Medicare TRICARE Programs. During floor consideration of this bill, Chairman McCain and I would like to offer an amendment that will authorize a new BRAC round. I know this topic concerns many of our colleagues, but I believe it is in necessary to allow the Department to gain efficiencies and savings by shedding excess infrastructure. In drafting this amendment, Chairman McCain and I worked to include the lessons learned and address the common critiques from previous BRAC rounds. The amendment would use the most recent National Military Strategy and an elevated force structure to determine if there is any excess capacity. Any recommendations submitted by the Secretary would have to be certified by CAPE, require thirdparty validation by the GAO, provide greater transparency to communities by publishing on the Federal Register, and any list of closures would have to be affirmatively approved by the President and Congress. Again, I know this is a difficult issue, but I believe we must make difficult decisions as stewards of our Department of Defense and taxpayers' dollars, and I look forward to the debate.
To my disappointment, the bill also includes a series of provisions that add unnecessary redtape to successful medical research efforts funded by the Pentagon. The program has funded research over the years. These programs have led to new treatments for burn victims, new transplant procedures, and rehabilitation techniques for TBI and PTSD patients, and a score of other medical innovations. These Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs have been independently reviewed by experts at the National Academies of Science and found to be world class, scientifically rigorous, innovative and effective. At a time when the President is proposing drastic and harmful cuts to NIH's medical research budget, I do not think we should intentionally throw bureaucratic hurdles in the way of researchers trying to cure debilitating and life-threatening diseases. I hope we can remove these provisions before we pass the bill. I am also concerned about several provisions in this bill that would weaken important protections for American defense manufacturers, including small businesses in my State that supply advanced technologies and systems to the military. I note that existing sourcing laws include provisions that protect the Pentagon taxpayers from paying unreasonable and unfair prices, and these laws serve to help protect American jobs. We need to ensure that we have an innovative, reliable, trusted, and secure domestic industrial base as we grow the military and respond to contingency operations and surge production requirements.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the funding for defense. The bill reported out of committee includes $610.87 billion in discretionary spending for defense base budget requirements and $60.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. It also includes $21 billion for Department of Energy-related activities, resulting in a topline funding level of $692 billion for discretionary national defense spending. While many of us agree that the Department requires the resources, these funding levels do not adhere to the spending limits mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. If enacted and funded at these levels, sequestration would be triggered, thereby wiping out about $88 billion through across-theboard cuts. This would be a very complicated situation. We would be giving money on one hand and taking it back with the other, literally. We must come to address the insufficient funding caps in the BCA, and we must do so for both defense and nondefense accounts. Since the Budget Control Act was enacted in 2011, we have made repeated incremental changes to the discretionary budget caps for both defense and nondefense accounts. We have done so in order to provide some budgetary certainty to the Department of Defense and also to domestic agencies. I believe that if defense funds are increased, funding for domestic agencies must also be increased because they, too, are suffering from the same severe budget that the Defense Department has suffered over the last several years. In addition, at this point, I think all of us acknowledge our national security is broader than simply the accounts in the Department of Defense. It is the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and many other agencies that contribute to our national security. In fact, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, we have seen the Centers for Disease Control dispatched, EPA individuals dispatched to evaluate, in the Harvey situation, threats to the environment, and in case of Irma, to try to prevent the threats by being deployed before the storm actually struck. So our national security, our public safety, all these issues involve not just the Department of Defense but the whole array of government enterprise. We understand that the well-being of our Nation-and what our men and women in uniform are fighting for-depends on funded and functioning domestic agencies, not just the Department of Defense. For example, as I have said before, with these two hurricanes, tens of thousands of Americans have needed help, these Federal agencies have come forward, and I will mention them: the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Small Business Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Social Security Administration. Those are just a handful. Providing for the security of Americans requires the whole of government, and it should all be funded fairly. We should remain responsible stewards of taxpayers' money while also ensuring we provide sufficient funds to meet the needs of our Nation.
Let me conclude by once again thanking Chairman McCain and my colleagues for working thoughtfully and on a bipartisan basis to develop this important piece of legislation. I would also like to thank the staff who worked tirelessly on this bill throughout the year. I look forward to a thoughtful debate on the issues that face our Department of Defense and national security. With that, I yield the floor.