NDAA passes Senate, goes to President

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Thursday supported the passage of H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). This annual legislation passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 86-13 and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and includes several legislative measures that were either authored or supported by Inhofe.

“There is no more important piece of legislation to our men and women in uniform,” said Inhofe. 

“I voted for this bill because our troops need the funds and programs outlined in it. It provides key authorizations for pay and benefits, acquisition of new weapon systems, authorization to start new military construction projects, and protects the individual rights of service members and their free exercise of religious beliefs.  However, Congress once again failed to finish this bill prior to October 1st and failed to follow the processes established to ensure transparency during the conference between the two houses of Congress. Both of these failures negatively impact our military and negatively impact America’s national security," Inhofe said.

“Delays in bringing the bill to the Senate floor over the past three years have resulted in essentially no NDAA conference between the House and Senate.  There were minimal conferences in 2009 and 2011 and no conference in 2010.  Our troops deserve a higher priority than the Democratic Senate leadership has given this bill since 2009.

While supportive of the bill, Inhofe outlined his concerns saying, “While there are many good things in this bill, I am still concerned by many aspects of it.  I do not support the un-vetted depot provisions inserted into the bill during conference since they may change how core depot workload is defined and executed at all DoD depots, shipyards and arsenals as well as our industrial base.  The new language was not contained in either the House or Senate bill, was not properly vetted before being included in the conference bill, and could have a very negative impact on Tinker AFB and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (MCAAP).  This provision should be halted until proper analysis can be completed, and I will be working very hard with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to rectify this problem.  

“Unfortunately, language that would have benefitted MCAAP was also removed in conference.  MCAAP was removed from the list of Army industrial facilities that must receive a minimum annual investment from the Army.  MCAAP was also taken off a list of Army depots that could be designated by the Secretary of the Army as a ‘Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence.’  Fortunately, there was language retained that will authorize unlimited public-private partnerships at MCAAP.”

“I am also very concerned with the inadequate level of funding that our military will receive under this bill.  At $513 billion in the base budget, this bill sets defense spending on a flat line with respect to fiscal year 2011.  That constitutes a cut when you figure in inflation.  This negatively impacts modernization programs and the day-to-day operations, maintenance, and training funds for the armed services.  With threats increasing around the globe, now is not the time to slash defense spending.

“Sequestration could possibly derail our military readiness and permanently alter our national security strategy.  The department is already adsorbing $400 billion in cuts.  The DoD should not be on the hook for another $500 billion, but unfortunately this President has targeted national security spending.  The results of sequestration would be a complete halt to all modernization programs, a reduction in end-strength, and a reduction in capabilities that could lead us to abrogate our obligations to our allies around the world.  This would leave the defense of our vital national interests to foreign nations and toothless international organizations, and I will not stand for that.

Inhofe pointed to several important provisions in the bill that ultimately gained his support for the overall measure:

Terrorist Detainee Provision – The bill provides a statutory framework for military detention of terrorists.  The language in this bill protects Americans and the homeland from terrorists while upholding the Constitutional rights of Americans and legal resident aliens.  There is simply no provision included in this bill that would allow U.S. citizens to be arrested by the military in the United States.  To make this even more clear, Inhofe supported an amendment on the Senate floor that states “Nothing in this bill shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”  Additionally, in order to address the concerns of the FBI, Inhofe supported language in conference that states nothing in this bill “shall be construed to affect the existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other domestic law enforcement agency with regard to a covered person, regardless whether such covered person is held in military custody.”

National Guard Provision – The bill strengthens the National Guard by adding the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff alongside the four service chiefs, reestablishing the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the three star level.  It also permanently authorizes the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, and restores authorities previously associated with that program.

Train and Equip – The bill contains a provision written by Inhofe which would provide a consolidated fund for the DOD and the State Department to support training of foreign forces for counter-terrorism, border security, and maritime security as well as authorization for the Department of Defense to provide logistics support, supplies, and services to foreign forces including the Ugandan military to stop the reign of terror of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Inhofe highlighted that the bill includes authorization for a 1.6 percent pay raise for our military, new starts and key defense programs and benefits, and funds for Impact Aid.  He was also pleased that the bill maintains funding for a Rapid Innovation Fund to allow DOD to rapidly field new systems needed by deployed units such as the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team currently serving in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, the controversial language designed to bring the Uniformed Military Code of Justice (UCMJ) in line with last year’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy was removed from the final bill.  The language would have eliminated Article 125 of the UCMJ that deals with sodomy.  Some raised concern with potentially unintended consequences of striking Article 125.  Inhofe was an outspoken opponent of repealing DADT.

Provisions that were either authored, sponsored, or otherwise supported by Inhofe and included in the Conference Report include:

Paladin Integration Management (PIM):  This critical Army artillery acquisition program is fully funded at over $46 million for fiscal year 2012.  An item included in the Senate’s NDAA report affirmed the fact that the PIM effort is now proceeding on plan, with formal Army developmental tests underway and directed the Secretary of the Army to regularly inform the congressional defense committees on the program’s progress.

Depot Maintenance:  The Air Force will be required to contract an independent report on the supervision and organization of program managers at new Air Logistics Complexes in order to ensure that the Air Force sustains the synergy at the complexes after the pending organizational changes within the Air Force Materiel Command.
McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (MCAAP):  While Inhofe expressed frustration that two provisions benefiting MCAAP were stripped in conference, a third section was retained which will allow for increased public-private partnerships at Army industrial facilities including MCAAP.  The report removes restrictions on public-private partnerships at Army industrial facilities and makes the authority permanent.  This will facilitate increased work for MCAAP.

Chief of the National Guard Bureau to join the Joint Chiefs:  Senator Inhofe co-sponsored an amendment to add the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff alongside the four service chiefs.  This provision is included in the bill.  This provision also permanently authorizes the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and restores authorities previously associated with that program.

Defense of Marriage Act:  No part of this act will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act or otherwise weakens our military families.  A provision included in the Senate version of the NDAA that would have struck the anti-sodomy and bestiality articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was removed from the conference report and will not become law.
Chaplain Freedom of Conscience: The unwise repeal of the effective and fair Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy threatens chaplains’ free exercise of their religious beliefs.  An amendment approved in the conference report formalizes the religious rights of chaplains to refuse to officiate gay marriages.

Global Security Contingency Fund:  The report sustains a provision written by Inhofe which would provide a consolidated fund for the DOD and the State Department to support training of foreign forces for counter-terrorism, border security, and maritime security.  This important provision simplifies the funding mechanisms for these important efforts.

Lord’s Resistance Army:  A provision written by Inhofe authorizes the DOD to provide logistics support, supplies, and services to foreign forces including the Ugandan military to stop the reign of terror of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.  This will provide congressional authorization for the deployment of trainers and support personnel to Central Africa.  The provision, modeled on the authorities used for our operations in Columbia, specifically prohibits U.S. personnel from engaging in combat as part of this operation.

Waiver for Critical Fire-Suppression Chemicals:  An amendment offered by Inhofe and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exempts a specific, critical chemical used in military fire suppression systems from a phase out mandated by the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.  No clean alternatives have emerged in the two decades since the amendment was passed, and this waiver allows for continued protection of U.S. troops.
Safer Skies for Overseas Air Force Operations:  An amendment authored by Senator Inhofe and included in the report requires the Air Force to report on the feasibility of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to do flight checks of instruments navigational aids at foreign fields.  Such a procedure may enhance safety by expanding the number of fields being checked.

Protecting our Weapons Suppliers from Foreign Boycotts:  An amendment authored by Senator Inhofe and modified in conference the Comptroller General will provide a report on the impact of boycotts of our defense suppliers by overseas banks who are responding to foreign anti-war activists

More Brass for Re-loaders:  Inhofe was able to include a provision that prevents the Army from destroying spent cartridges and casings unless they are in excess of commercial demand from the reloading community.

Iran Sanctions:  Inhofe supports the provisions that allow the president to sanction financial institutions, to include the central banks for foreign countries that continue to do business with the Central Bank of Iran.

Other report provisions supported by Inhofe:

  • Improve processes and procedures to bolster the detection and avoidance of counterfeit electronic parts.
  • Defeat provisions in the Senate-passed NDAA that would have transferred the MC-12 intelligence-gathering aircraft from the Air Force to the Army and disrupted ongoing operations.
  • Protect U.S. Africa Command’s headquarters in Germany from disruptive moves.
    Require the president to report on Pakistan’s counter-IED cooperation prior to the release of $700 million in counter-terrorism assistance.
  • Sustain the DOD program to assist local schools affected by influxes of military dependent children caused by base realignment and consolidation and authorize $25 million to that end.
  • Expand the Operation Hero Miles Program to allow the donation of hotel points.
  • Establish a joint DOD-Department of Homeland Security coordination center for cyber security.
  • Protect the DOD GPS system by requiring frequent evaluations of whether commercial systems are interfering with military GPS functions.
  • Require the DOD to submit a plan for normalizing relations with the Republic of Georgia.
  • Require the president to develop a strategy to mitigate the threat posed by man-portable air defense missiles, especially those emanating from Libya in the post-conflict environment.
  • Extend the timeline for the submittal of claims under TRICARE for care provided outside of the United States.
  • Tie increases in TRICARE fees to the cost of living index instead of medical inflation.
  • Sustains the Impact Aid program with an authorization of $5 million from DOD-wide operations and maintenance funds.
  • Permanently authorize sports programs for our Wounded Warrior athletes.
  • Require the DOD to evaluate the feasibility of repatriating the remains of the sailors and marines killed in Tripoli Harbor in 1804 during America’s first foreign war.

Inhofe expressed disappointment that several provisions were not included in the report.

Elimination of an Unjust Offset – A provision introduced by Inhofe and passed by the Senate would have repealed the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan by veterans’ dependency and indemnity compensation.

Capital Investment for MCAAP – Two key provisions that would have supported MCAAP were stripped in conference.  One provision in the would have added MCAAP to a list of Army industrial facilities that receive a minimum annual investment from the Army equal to six percent of the plant’s workload over the past three years.  A second provision would have authorized the Secretary of the Army to designate MCAAP as a “Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence” which would have facilitated additional authorities for public-private partnerships.

DOD Energy Security – A provision in the House bill which was supported by Inhofe would have exempted DOD from section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  Section 526 would prevent the DOD from developing alternative energy sources like tar sands and continue our dependence on foreign oil.

Hearing Loss Report – Expressed the Sense of the Congress that the Secretary of Defense should implement recommendations of the Comptroller General regarding prevention, abatement, and data collection to address hearing injuries and hearing loss among members of the Armed Forces.

Report on FAA Crew Rest Rule Changes – This amendment would have required a report by the Department of Defense on the effect of the proposed rule changes by the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to flightcrew member duty and rest requirements on the DOD.  Senate Bill report language still requires a report from Commander of U.S. Transportation Command.
Shedding Light on Chinese Military Relationships – This amendment adopted into the Senate Bill Act and dropped in conference would have enhanced the existing annual report by the Department of Defense on the Chinese military by requiring the report to include a section on China’s growing military relationships around the world with countries like North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran as well as their naval activities and their activities in the vicinity of U.S. military installations.