For a sneak peek at how Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee may approach key issues like defense spending, missile defense, major weapons programs and building security by partnering with allies and friendly nations, look no further than the report accompanying the panel's FY-10 National Defense Authorization Bill.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), ranking member and now a frontrunner to take over as chairman, was one of two dozen GOP members on the committee last fall who collectively spelled out out issues they would handle differently if in control of the authorization committee.
Their perspective is spelled out in a six-page memo included in the “additional views” section of the report accompanying the FY-10 authorization bill (pages 669 to 674). That authorization bill largely endorsed major changes to DOD's modernization accounts -- including major weapon system terminations -- proposed by Defense Robert Gates in April 2009.
On topline defense spending:
We are concerned that the President’s Budget did not adequately increase defense spending. After taking into account the migration into the base budget of items previously funded in the supplemental the net effect is less than 2% real growth. As a result, the committee had limited headroom in which to address many of the programmatic cuts that accompanied Secretary Gates’ so-called ‘‘reform budget.’’ While the committee included a number of measures in the mark that redress some of the shortcomings found in the Administration’s request, including adopting an amendment which authorized much of the Army and Marine Corps Unfunded Requirements, we question some of the spending priorities of the committee.
Most notably, this committee provides for an additional $402.6 million above the President’s Budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) defense nuclear nonproliferation program which was already increased from the previous year’s request. We are concerned that this funding was provided without a formal request by the Secretary of Energy or the Administrator of NNSA and without an integrated, interagency plan for securing nuclear materials. We will carefully monitor NNSA’s execution of these funds in the coming year.
On missile defense:
We believe that such additional funding could have been used to address other priorities such as missile defense. Congress, and particularly the Armed Services Committees in both chambers, has the unmistakable obligation to ensure that the Department of Defense develops and deploys defensive capabilities that protect the American people, our forward-deployed forces, and our allies. This includes promising programs in the area of missile defense.
On the same day in which President Obama acknowledged that a nuclear-armed North Korea posed a ‘‘grave threat’’ to the world, the committee chose to sustain the Administration’s $1.2 billion cut to missile defense. In a year where Iran and North Korea have demonstrated the capability and intent to pursue long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapon programs, and a track record for widespread proliferation—elements of a genuine national security threat—the committee endorsed reductions to capabilities that would provide a comprehensive missile defense system to protect the U.S. homeland, our forward-deployed troops, and allies.
The committee sustained the Administration’s 35% reduction to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program. This national missile defense system, located in Alaska and California, is designed to protect the U.S. homeland from long-range ballistic missiles fired either in anger or by accident. We are deeply disappointed that the committee rejected an amendment to restore funding to the program. The amendment provided a modest increase of funds to complete a partially constructed missile interceptor field in Alaska where all the equipment had already been purchased. It sought to pay for this program with funds set aside to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. After witnessing Kim Jong Il walk away from the Six-Party talks, kick out U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, and vow to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state, it is unrealistic to expect that there will be any dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program within the fiscal year. We believe that those resources could have been better spent on real, near-term capabilities to protect the United States. Should progress be made in negotiations with North Korea such that dismantling their nuclear complex becomes possible, funds could be reprogrammed at that time.
It is equally troubling that the committee did not enact amendments to reverse the Administration’s decision to reduce and terminate pioneering missile defense programs like the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, Multiple Kill Vehicle, and Space Tracking and Surveillance System, or restore their funding. The Department of Defense has yet to deliver to the committee any analysis or new requirements to justify these sweeping decisions. Furthermore, we cannot reconcile the simple fact that as the missile threat is increasing --substantiated by our own intelligence agencies --funding for our missile defense capabilities is decreasing.
The committee supported increased funding for theater missile defenses, which are important capabilities in protecting our forward-deployed troops and allies from shorter-range missiles. However, with a net $1.2 billion cut, we have been forced to trade national missile defense for more theater missile defense. Setting up such a false choice between the defense of our homeland and defense of our forward-deployed troops and allies is neither smart nor sound policy. Both are necessary and both could have been adequately funded without such deep cuts.
On working with allies:
We commend the inclusion of provisions taken from the bipartisan NATO FIRST bill that was introduced earlier in the year by Representatives Turner and Marshall. A strong commitment to transatlantic security is necessary as the Administration engages in a reset policy with Russia. We regret that the committee did not adopt the Administration’s proposals relating to building the capacity of partners in order to increase coalition partner nation participation in Afghanistan. These proposals are necessary to be able to quickly implement the new Afghanistan policy. Without these authorities we miss an opportunity to reduce the burden on our deployed forces in Afghanistan.
We are pleased the committee endorsed an amendment that sought to increase support for a European missile defense system proposed to be located in the Czech Republic and Poland. As the amendment noted, ‘‘Missile defense promotes the collective security of the United States and NATO and improves linkages among member nations of NATO by defending all members of NATO against the full range of missile threats.’’ Though the committee rejected authorizing additional resources, it did support the creation of a framework to evaluate alternatives, should they be pursued by the Administration. However, we would note that based on independent analysis requested by the committee, we have seen no alternative that provides a more cost-effective and operationally available solution to protect the U.S. and Europe than the current proposal.
We appreciate the Chairman’s commitment to work with us to address an amendment that would establish binding legislation to ensure that any treaty or agreement with Russia that seeks bilateral reductions in our strategic nuclear forces does not include limitations on U.S. missile defenses, space, or advanced conventional weapons capabilities. These important conventional capabilities continue to remain vital to our military forces and the defense of the American people and our allies, and are not collateral for U.S. negotiators to trade away to persuade Russia to reduce its nuclear forces.
On the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship:
We had concerns about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and the relief that was being provided to the cost cap in the subcommittee mark. Current law caps LCS end costs at $460 million per vessel, beginning in fiscal year 2010, with the fifth and follow-on ships. The committee has now raised the cap or delayed implementation of the cap for three years in a row. This program was proposed to Congress on the basis of affordability, but the price tag of the latest ships is approximately 250% greater than the original price estimate.
We have increased congressional oversight of this program; but, particularly in light of the passage of the Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 in May, the first legislative act of this committee should not be approving a unilateral increase to the end cost of this program. This is especially true since the Navy has not officially requested a change to the current legislation. Therefore, we were pleased that the committee agreed to support an amendment to strengthen section 121, regarding the LCS cost cap. The bipartisan amendment imposes additional requirements before any changes to the cost cap may go into effect. This amendment is intended to send the signal that this committee is serious about controlling costs, does not adjust cost caps lightly, and is determined that the Navy make a knowledge-based decision prior to procuring additional Flight 0 LCS vessels.
On "transparency and defense oversight":
Finally, we believe that to carry out our constitutional mandate to raise and support the armed forces, the committee expects a transparent and open relationship with the Department of Defense where the independent views of the Service Chiefs are represented to the Congress by the civilian senior leadership in a timely manner.
That is why we are disappointed that the committee did not fully adopt an amendment that would have provided a statutory framework for the Service Chiefs to provide their independent view to the Congress.