Senate Democrats

Democrats Chart a Real Change of Course on National Security

Democrats are determined to restore America’s national security and leadership in the world.  Eight years of reckless Republican policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terrorism have left us far less secure than we should be and our country less-equipped to address the national security challenges before us.  Democrats have not only pledged real change – we are taking action to reverse the failed legacy of the past eight years and enact policies that will make America safe. 

Last week, we led the effort to pass a bipartisan supplemental appropriations bill that takes a critical first step toward righting our course on national security.  The bill provides a total of $91.3 billion in funding to strengthen our military; reduce the U.S. commitment in Iraq and transition responsibility to the Iraqis; implement a comprehensive strategy for defeating the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and bolster international cooperation for combating nuclear proliferation, global economic instability and other transnational threats.  It is time that we move beyond the failed policies and politics of the past eight years and work together with a relentless focus on putting in place the right strategies that will make America more secure.

Strengthen Our Military 

The supplemental bill provides a total of $73 billion in funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) for operations, personnel costs, and equipment related to the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The bill, which includes the requested funding to support current deployments as well as the addition of 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, will:  

Provide our troops with the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions.  The supplemental bill ensures that our deployed military forces are provided the most effective weaponry, communications, and other equipment on the battlefield.  It fully funds the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, as well as key readiness programs to prepare military forces for combat operations and other missions.  

Protect our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The supplemental bill ensures that our deployed service members are armed with the best force protection equipment available.  It provides a total of $4.2 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to safeguard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  This is $1.55 billion above the request specifically for MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs), which are critical to protecting our troops while providing them with the off-road capability necessary to navigate the terrain in Afghanistan.   The bill also includes $1.1 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund (JIEDDO).  

Ensure our troops and returning veterans are provided first-rate care and services.  The supplemental bill provides $18 billion for military personnel, including special pay and allowances, $909 million for the Defense Health Program, and $765 million for military quality of life projects to construct nine warrior support facilities in the United States and 25 child development centers in the United States and overseas.

Provide funds to ensure that wounded warriors are provided needed medical care.  The bill allocates funding for wounded warrior services to address the unique needs of wounded troops when they return from the battlefield.  Among the key provisions, the bill includes $230.9 million to complete construction of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, including a Warrior Transition Center at Fort Belvoir, VA.

Bolster Critical Intelligence and Counterterrorism Initiatives 

The supplemental bill includes an additional $331.9 million to fund high priority intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance initiatives at the Department of Defense.  It also provides $17 million to the Department of Justice in support of counterterrorism efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States, including funds to continue criminal justice training programs in Iraq and Afghanistan; improve intelligence gathering and sharing; and support terrorism investigations and prosecutions.  Further, the bill includes $55 million for new counter-proliferation activities in Russia and other countries of concern, which will help strengthen programs for preventing terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons. 

Begin to End the War in Iraq and Transition Responsibility to the Iraqis

The supplemental bill supports the President’s strategy to reduce the U.S. commitment in Iraq, focus on training and counterterrorism missions, and promote the transition of security and governance responsibility to Iraqis.  It provides $1 billion for the Iraqi Security Force Fund to train and equip these forces and assist the Iraqi government in assuming greater responsibility for their security.  The bill also allocates funding in support of diplomatic, economic development, and governance initiatives vital to fostering sustainable security and political reconciliation.  It provides $150 million for State Department operations, $439 million to continue reconstruction, governance, and humanitarian programs, and also includes a provision requiring that U.S. assistance be matched by the Iraqi government.

Support a Comprehensive Strategy for Addressing Terrorist Threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan

The supplemental bill allocates funding to implement a comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It moves beyond the current focus on military power and incorporates regional diplomacy, counterinsurgency training, economic development, civilian assistance and government capacity-building initiatives to promote long-term security and stability in the region.  The bill provides $173 million for State Department operations and $135.6 for interagency diplomatic initiatives in Afghanistan; $999 million for reconstruction and law enforcement programs in Afghanistan; $36.4 million to support the civilian surge in Pakistan; and $506.5 million in economic, law enforcement, and humanitarian assistance in Pakistan.  The bill also provides $123 million for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

Further, the supplemental bill provides the resources necessary to build the counterterrorism capacity of the region’s security forces.  The bill includes $400 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, to train and equip Pakistani forces to better fight insurgent threats.  It also provides $3.6 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to train and equip these forces to take on greater responsibility for their nation’s security.

Mitigate Grave Threats to Global Economic Stability

In his Annual Threat Assessment to Congress in February, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair warned that the global economic crisis posed the most urgent threat to our national security.  He stated that “The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications.”[1]  The bill includes $5 billion that will be leveraged, along with the contributions of other countries, to enable the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase its lending capacity and respond to grave threats to global economic stability, particularly in developing countries severely impacted by the financial crisis.  The bill also includes provisions to approve important reforms to the IMF to strengthen the role of developing countries in the IMF; to provide a sound basis for the Fund to pay for its operations; to help ensure that IMF conditions do not undermine critical public spending in developing countries; and to ensure continued congressional oversight over the Fund.  

Address the Growing Violence Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

In its 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment, the Department of Justice reported that Mexican drug trafficking organizations “represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States.”[2]   Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reiterated this assessment in her March testimony, emphasizing the international and homeland security threats posed by organized crime and drug cartels in Mexico.  The Secretary stated that “The cartels that Mexican authorities are battling are the same criminal organizations that put drugs on our streets and use violence as a tool of their trade.  Illegal drugs, money, and weapons flow both ways across our border and inextricably link the United States and Mexico in our efforts against drug cartels.”[3]

The supplemental bill includes $350 million in funding to combat violence and drug trafficking along the southwest border of the United States.  It allocates $140 million to the Department of Homeland Security to hire personnel and provide additional resources to expand enforcement, anti-smuggling, and anti-violence initiatives along the border; $100 million to the Department of Justice to provide additional agents and investigators to apprehend criminals and drug traffickers and bolster cooperation with Mexican law enforcement officials; $10 million for the Judiciary to handle the projected growth in the criminal caseload related to border security initiatives; and $100 million for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security to cover the costs for the care, treatment, and transportation of unaccompanied alien children on the southwest border.

[1] Dennis Blair, Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2/12/09.

[2] National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2009, 12/09.

[3] Secretary Janet Napolitano, Testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 3/25/09.