President Barack Obama began the new year on a controversial footing by signing the highly disputed National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA 2012) into law.
Defense authorization bills are traditionally passed by Congress and signed with little controversy by the sitting President. But the NDAA 2012 has been the focus of particular rancor from often unlikely parties, and the signing statement written by President Obama, which was included with the bill as an informal addendum, is particularly troubling to those who value the integrity of our national defense strategy.
Obama signed the bill with the caveat that he did not feel bound by certain sections of the NDAA 2012, particularly those that he determined would impede his authority in making foreign policy decisions. One of the sections in question, 1227, was written to protect highly sensitive and valuable information from being leaked, sold, or otherwise exposed to foreign governments. It would change the name of the required annual report from “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” to “Annual Report on Military Power of the People’s Republic of China.” This section would also clarify the reporting requirements relating to China’s cyber and espionage activities.
Another part of the law, section 1228, would have important implications for U.S. missile defense cooperation with the Russian Federation. It would limit funds from being used to provide the Russian Federation with access to sensitive U.S. missile defense technology or sensitive data and, more generally, to U.S. missile defense technology or data as part of a defense technical cooperative agreement unless the President submits a report and certification to certain committees. Unfortunately, President Obama objected to this provision in his signing statement.
As President Obama has made massive cuts in the defense budget, he’s also been quite open about his proposal to share top-secret information about America’s missile and missile defense systems with foreign governments as a facet of his plan to improve foreign relations. The Washington Times reported on January 4 that the Obama Administration was mulling the idea of sharing information about the SM-3 ballistic missile defense program with Russian officials. The SM-3 is an outgrowth of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which focused on land-, sea-, and space-based anti-ballistic missile systems.
On January 3, the White House released an outline for Obama’s current and future approach to national defense that reads a little like an “eat less and exercise” diet plan: It may look good on paper, but without a long-term plan, disaster may be the result. The report speaks of a leaner, more efficient military that can fight conflicts on multiple fronts. The list of duties to be executed by the American military includes supporting democratic movements in other countries; caring for our warriors, veterans, and their families; and addressing the dangers posed by cyber-warfare and terrorism. It is indeed audacious for President Obama to promise so much from a military whose budget is now a shadow of its former self.
Reagan, during the apex of Cold War tensions with Russia, was able to rein in the federal budget—despite the congressional Democrats’ insistence on maintaining domestic entitlement programs—and, with modest increases in defense spending, help the United States emerge as the lone superpower in the world. Barack Obama defies Reagan’s “Peace Through Strength” platform and appears instead to embrace a “Peace Through Appeasement” posture. Our national enemies, once so clearly and unequivocally defined by Reagan, are regarded as friendly peers of equal moral stature in the eyes of President Obama.
Unfortunately for us and our real allies on the global stage, Obama’s friendly information-sharing could easily put us at a significant strategic disadvantage. That would make the world a much more dangerous, less peaceful, less friendly place, even for a friendly guy like Barack Obama.