FLOOR STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON FY 2010 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT (S. 1390)
July 13, 2009
Thank you, Chairman Levin.
I share your gratitude in thanking our subcommittee chairman and ranking members who contributed so much to writing this bill. They held numerous hearings on many important issues and I thank them for all their hard work. They were ably assisted by our extremely competent committee staff. Bringing this bill to the floor each year is a tremendous undertaking and it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our outstanding professional staff that ensures the process goes smoothly.
I also want to extend a special thanks to you Mr. Chairman whom I have worked with for a number of years now. I commend you on your leadership, grace and integrity in shepherding this bill. It is not easy managing the competing interests, views and opinions of 26 senators, but you do an excellent job at ensuring that we all feel heard and understood—even if we don’t always agree. I continue to admire your steadfast dedication to the committee’s long tradition of bipartisan cooperation. Mr. Chairman, you are a friend and a great colleague and I appreciate your support in both regards.
Consistent with the longstanding, bipartisan practice of the Armed Services Committee, this bill reflects our committee’s continued strong support for the brave men and women of the United States armed forces. It is, for the most part, an excellent bill and I believe the Committee has made informed decisions regarding the authorization of over $680 billion in base and Overseas Contingency Operations funding for fiscal year 2010. To a great extent it reflects the priorities laid out by the Secretary of Defense. It also reflects his decisions to end troubled programs and focus our limited resources on today’s threats and the lessons we’ve learned after more than eight years of war. While the provisions in this bill demonstrate our commitment to provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines the very best available equipment, training, and support in order to provide them with the best possible tools to undertake their missions, I believe we can – and should – improve the bill in certain respects, and I will offer amendments during our floor debate to do so.
The bill takes care of our men and women in uniform and their families by providing military members with a 3.4% pay raise. It expands care for wounded warriors, supports families, and improves military health care. It fully funds the growth of the Army and Marine Corps. Indeed, it authorizes further growth of the Army should that be necessary to sustain our combat operations and further reduce the strain on our forces.
The bill retains a balanced capability to deter aggression by increasing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, investing in tactical aircraft and ships, and accelerating the purchase of mine resistant all terrain vehicles for our troops in Afghanistan.
This bill acknowledges that the United States has a vital national security interest in ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists, supports a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that is adequately resourced and funded by Congress based on identified needs to date, and calls on the President to provide our U.S. military commanders with the military forces they require in order to succeed. In Iraq, the committee ensures that the Congress will support the President’s plan to redeploy combat forces while providing our commanders the flexibility to hold hard fought security gains and ensure the safety of our forces.
One of the toughest issues this committee has taken a leading role in – both in past years and in this bill – is detainee policy. Since 2005, this committee has developed legislation on detainee matters, sometimes in cooperation with the White House and sometimes over its strong objections—because it is critical to our national security and the preservation of our democratic principles. This bill makes changes to the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I have worked closely with Senator Levin and Senator Graham to address some of these difficult issues.
We haven’t resolved all of the challenges that military commissions and other aspects of detainee policy present, but I believe we have made substantial progress that will strengthen the military commissions system during appellate review, provide a careful balance between protection of national security and American values, and allow the trials to move forward with greater efficiency toward a just and fair result.
The committee also had a healthy debate on the future of missile defense and our strategic deterrence capabilities. I welcome and share President Obama’s aspiration hope for a nuclear-free world. However, I believe we must also be prudent and practical in our reductions and remain vigilant about the global proliferation of advance missile and nuclear technology. While recently much of our national defense posture supports combating terrorists, we cannot grow complacent to the danger rogue nations like North Korea and Iran pose to us—whether it’s missile launches within range of Hawaii, or transferring weapons to Hezbollah or Hamas. We must strengthen our commitment to enforcing the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the existing inspection regime. We must lead an international effort to interdict and prevent the world’s most dangerous weapons from getting into the hands of the world’s worst actors. I know there are varying views on the future of missile defense and our long-term strategic force posture and I look forward to those debates.
The bipartisan nature of our committee allows for candid discussion, lively debate, and at times disagreement. In that spirit, there are some items in the bill that I do not support and were not in the President’s budget request, such as continuation of the F-22 aircraft production line, funding for the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine, and earmarks totaling approximately $6.4 billion.
I was disappointed that, in spite of a veto threats from The White House, our Committee chose to add $1.75 billion for seven F-22 aircraft, and $439 million for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.
Neither the President nor the Pentagon asked for F-22s or the alternate engine in the budget request nor were they part of the Service’s Unfunded Priority Lists. Secretary Gates has consistently opposed the need for additional F-22 aircraft and has indicated on a number of occasions that additional F-22 aircraft are not required to meet potential threats posed by near-term adversaries.
I strongly support Secretary Gates’ decision to end the F-22 production line at 187 aircraft and his commitment to building a fifth generation tactical fighter capability by focusing on the timely delivery of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Air Force, Navy and Marines.
I look forward to lively debates on these and other important issues over the next few days.
As in years past, I believe that this legislation reflects many of the Armed Service Committee’s priorities in supporting our nation’s dedicated and courageous servicemembers. I thank Chairman Levin for putting together an excellent bill and helping us to stay focused on delivering a bill that protects, sustains, and builds our forces. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve—and pass—S. 1390.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.