Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Advance National Security Priorities on Defense Legislation

On July 23, the Senate passed S.1390, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, with a bipartisan vote of 87 to 7.  The bill would authorize a total of $679.8 billion in budget authority for defense programs in Fiscal Year 2010, which is $380 million below the President’s request.  This amount includes $534.1 billion for Department of Defense (DoD) programs, $16.4 billion for Department of Energy (DOE) national security activities, and $129.3 billion in funding for overseas contingency operations, primarily in support of U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Funding authorized in this legislation is critical for building a 21st century military; ensuring our service members have the equipment, training, and tools they need to fulfill their missions; providing our troops and veterans with first-rate benefits and care; reducing the threat of nuclear weapons; transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq; advancing a new, comprehensive strategy to defeat terrorist threats in Afghanistan; eliminating waste and inefficiency in defense spending; and addressing other key national and domestic security priorities.  

Investing in a 21st Century Military and Ensuring Our Troops Have the Resources, Training, Technology, and Equipment to Fulfill Their Missions

Protecting our troops on the battlefield.  S.1390 would authorize $6.7 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle Fund, $1.2 billion above the President’s budget request for MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV).  It also would authorize $2.1 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund (JIEDDF).  Funding for this organization enables our troops to combat more effectively the threat faced by improvised explosive devices (IED), a threat that persists in both Iraq and Afghanistan 

Restoring military readiness.  The legislation would fully fund readiness and depot maintenance programs to ensure that forces preparing to deploy are trained and have equipment they need; authorize $250 million for construction projects for the National Guard and Reserves; add $25 million for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative to protect critical mission training sites; and provide additional funds for key training programs and technologies.

Strengthening our military.  S.1390 authorizes increased end-strengths for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps of 547,400 and 202,100, respectively for Fiscal Year 2010.  Additionally, the bill includes an amendment that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to grow the U.S. Army by an additional 30,000 active-duty soldiers in Fiscal Years 2010-2012.  These measures will enable the military to meet current operational demands, more effectively train for future conflicts, and reduce the strain on our service members and their families.   

Promoting the transition of U.S. Armed Forces to meet 21st century threats.  The bill takes significant steps in implementing the Obama Administration’s agenda for rebalancing defense priorities, as articulated by Secretary Gates in April, by restructuring procurement, terminating underperforming programs, and boosting funding for urgent defense needs.  Specifically, the legislation would provide funds for critical military equipment and increase investments in defense science and technology (S&T) programs.  The bill also includes provisions to support the development of next-generation bomber technologies as well as Secretary Gates’ plan for the restructuring of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, and would direct DoD to create development programs for a next-generation ground combat vehicle and a next-generation self-propelled howitzer.

Improving Health Care and Providing First-Rate Benefits for Our Troops and Veterans

S.1390 would allocate $163.9 billion for pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, permanent change of station moves, and health care.

Providing a pay raise for military personnel.  The bill would provide for a 3.4 percent pay raise for all military personnel, which is 0.5 percent above the level included in the budget request and the annual rise in the Employment Cost Index.  This measure will help ensure continued progress toward pay parity with the private sector.

Expanding access for military health care.  The legislation includes provisions that would extend eligibility for TRICARE Standard coverage to certain members of the Retired Reserve (“grey area retirees”) and family members; expand eligibility of surviving children of service members under the TRICARE Dental Program; and require DoD to begin a process of reform and improvement of the TRICARE health care system.

Improving care for wounded warriors.  S.1390 provides funding for wounded warrior programs authorized under the Wounded Warrior Act (included in the Fiscal Year 2008 defense authorization bill, P.L. 110-181), to continue efforts for improving care and support for wounded service members, including the treatment of and research in traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), support for families, improvements to the disability evaluation system, and efforts to promote increased collaboration between DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure wounded service members are provided the necessary support as they transition to civilian life.  The legislationincludes additional wounded warrior provisions thatwould:

·         Establish a task force on wounded warrior policies to assess the effectiveness of the policies and programs designed to assist and support the care, management, and transition of recovering wounded, ill, and injured service members;

·         Require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on rehabilitation treatment strategies for service members with TBI;

·         Provide supplemental income to seriously ill and injured service members to assist their caregivers; and

·         Increase transportation assistance for those supporting wounded warriors.

Enhancing mental health care.  The bill would require the Secretary of Defense to issue guidance for mental health assessments of service members deployed for a contingency operation and also includes a provision that would require DoD to develop and implement a plan by September 2013 to increase the number of military and civilian behavioral health personnel.  Further, the legislation calls for continued and expanded suicide prevention initiatives to address rising rates of suicide among military members.

Improving military facilities.  S.1390 would authorize $24.2 billion in funding for military construction accounts, including funds to maintain and modernize barracks, dormitories, and housing facilities for service members deployed around the world and ensure adequate housing for military families.

Expanding the Homeowners Assistance Program for military members and families.  The legislation would authorize an additional $350 million to provide relief to homeowners who are military service members, wounded warriors, surviving spouses, and defense civilian employees who are forced to relocate because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission or permanent change of station moves.

Supporting military families.  S.1390 would authorize $1.95 billion for family housing programs; provide $45 million to assist local education agencies providing support to military children; direct a review of mental health care and counseling services available to military children; and require the development of policies and programs to support military children with autism and their families.

Supporting a Comprehensive Strategy to Defeat the Terrorist Threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Transition Our Mission in Iraq

S.1390 would authorize a total of $129.3 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in support of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and efforts to transition the U.S. mission in Iraq, and transfer responsibility to the Iraqis.

Enhancing the capability of the Armed Forces to conduct counterinsurgency operations.  The legislation would fully fund the President’s budget request for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), providing a total of $8.6 billion in support of its counterterrorism mission and to allow the expansion of the size of U.S. Special Operations Forces (an increase of 2,349 military and civilian personnel in Fiscal Year 2010).  Further, the bill would authorize an additional $131.7 million for unfunded requirements identified by the Commander of USSOCOM.

Building the capacity of the Afghan security forces.  The bill would authorize $7.5 billion to train and equip the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

Funding critical relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  S.1390 would authorize $1.4 billion in Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) funding to enable U.S. military commanders to quickly fund humanitarian relief and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This amount includes $300 million for Iraq and $1.1 billion for Afghanistan to promote local development and capacity building initiatives.

Ensuring transparency and effectiveness in the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF).  The legislation would establish the conditions for the DoD’s use of up to $700 million in funds transferred from the State Department to DoD in Fiscal Year 2010 in support of initiatives to build the capacity of the Pakistan Frontier Corps and train the Pakistan Army in counterinsurgency operations.  It includes a provision that would condition PCF funding on the Pakistani government’s commitment to confronting the threat posed by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militant extremist groups.

Reducing the Threat of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons

Enhancing nonproliferation initiatives.  The bill would provide $424.1 million for the DoD Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), which is $20 million above the President’s request, including $10 million for new initiatives outside of the former Soviet Union, $3 million for Russian and other chemical weapons demilitarization, and $7 million for strategic offensive arms elimination.  The legislation also would authorize $2.1 billion for nonproliferation programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in the Department of Energy, including an additional $50 million for nonproliferation research and development.  Further, the bill includes a provision that would require the development of an interagency plan for nuclear forensics and attribution.

Ensuring funding for chemical and biological defense programs.  S.1390 would provide a total of $1.57 billion, as requested, for chemical and biological defense programs.

Strengthening Our Strategic Programs

Improving missile defense capabilities.  The legislation would provide a total of $9.3 billion for ballistic missile defense programs, which is equal to the President’s request and supports the missile defense decisions announced by Secretary of Defense Gates on April 6, 2009.  The bill includes $700 million to field additional THAAD and Standard Missile-3 theater missile defense systems, $200 million for the conversion of additional Aegis ships for missile defense capabilities, and an additional $50 million for the Navy’s sea-based missile defense requirements. 

The legislation would support the Administration’s decision to cap deployment of Ground-Based Interceptors at 30, terminate the Multiple Kill Vehicle Program and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program, and cancel the second Airborne Laser aircraft.  Further, the bill would require DoD to establish a comprehensive plan for test and evaluation of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, an assessment of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, and a report on potential ballistic missile defense cooperation with Russia.  The bill would also authorize $353 million of prior-year missile defense funds for development and deployment of a variety of effective missile defense systems in Europe to defend against current and future Iranian missile threats.

Maintaining a safe secure and reliable nuclear weapon stockpile without nuclear testing. The bill would provide $6.5 billion for the Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain our nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing.

Enhancing drug interdiction and counterdrug initiatives

The legislation would fully fund DoD drug interdiction and counterdrug activities; extend counterdrug training and assistance programs to certain foreign governments, primarily in South and Central America, Central Asia, and West Africa; and authorizes a $30 million increase for high-priority National Guard counternarcotics programs.  This funding also includes over $320 million for ongoing U.S. counterdrug operations in Afghanistan.

Eliminating waste and inefficiency in defense spending 

Terminating unnecessary and troubled defense programs and redirecting funds to higher priority initiatives.  The bill would terminate the production program for F-22A aircraft, as requested by the Obama Administration, and also ban any spending on the alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter until the Secretary of Defense certifies that such a program would reduce the Fighter program’s overall costs and would not disrupt development.  It would also reduce or eliminate funding for lesser-priority programs as well as several other defense initiatives plagued by cost overruns, excessive program delays, and inefficiencies in order to fund more pressing national defense programs and activities.

Reforming defense acquisition policy and management to protect our troops and safeguard taxpayer dollars.  S.1390 includes provisions that would prohibit the DoD from awarding sole-source contracts exceeding $20 million unless certain criteria are met; authorize a one-year extension for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan; require the Secretary of Defense to issue regulations that prohibit the interrogation of detainees by contractor personnel; and direct DoD to establish safety standards for facilities used by military or civilian personnel in current and future operations.

Ensuring aggressive oversight of defense programs.  The bill would require an assessment of the technological and maturity integration risks of Army modernization programs; provide the DoD Inspector General (IG) with expanded authorities to conduct investigations; and add $15 million for the DoD IG second year growth plan to increase oversight related to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reforming Military Commissions

 

S.1390 provides new language for the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-366) to address a series of issues including the use of coerced testimony and hearsay evidence in a manner intended to achieve greater balance, ensure that convictions can be upheld on appeal, and improve the credibility of the military commissions system.  The bill includes a provision that would amend chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code, to ensure that military commissions meet standards of fairness established by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S.C.557 (2006).  It would bring procedures for military commissions in line with procedures governing trials by courts-martial, except in cases where deviations are justified by practical needs.

Addressing the Threat of Hate Crimes 

The Matthew ShepardHate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was included as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.  This provision would strengthen the ability of federal, state, local, and tribal governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.  The bill would authorize grants to meet state, local, and tribal expenses involved in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.  The law would also increase the federal government’s ability to monitor hate crimes by expanding the hate crimes statistics collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

According to a recent report from the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, “the number of hate crimes reported has consistently ranged around 7,500 or more annually, or nearly one every hour of the day.”  By providing greater protection to our citizens and much-needed resources for state and local law enforcement to fight these vicious crimes the bipartisan Matthew ShepardHate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 will help address the serious and growing problem of hate crimes in American communities. 

Ensuring that the Votes of Deployed U.S. Military Personnel and Other Americans Overseas are Counted

The bill includes the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act that would require states to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election; reduce transit time by requiring states to allow use of electronic means for transmission of certain voting materials; and establish procedures for collecting voted absentee ballots and delivering them to election officials in time to be counted.

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