Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund U.S. forces.
The Heritage Foundation recently set 10 issues that can improve U.S. security and advance its alliance relationships. While the HASC hasn’t released its full report yet, here are some of the issues that stand out:
- Missile defense site on the East Coast. Following up on the committee’s efforts in fiscal year 2013, the bill provides authorization and funding for the East Coast missile defense site. Such a site would increase U.S. probability of intercepting North Korean or Iranian ballistic missiles. Regardless of the type of interceptors, it is important that the Missile Defense Agency examines the options for placing a radar site on the East Coast. X-band radar would improve performance of the existing interceptors protecting the homeland. It would also open up the possibility to add ship-based interceptors to the U.S. homeland missile defense architecture.
- Limitations on New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty implementation. The NDAA limits the President’s ability to pursue U.S. unilateral nuclear arms reductions unless certain conditions are met. This is a wise step, since the President has been opaque regarding his plans for the future U.S. nuclear weapons posture. He failed to follow through certifications regarding the modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. He also cancelled Phase IV of the Administration’s missile defense plan for Europe. The U.S. remains the only nuclear weapons state without a substantive nuclear weapons modernization program. The world is not getting any safer. This is not the time to conduct unilateral nuclear weapons reductions.
- Limitations on the President’s ability to share missile defense information with the Russian Federation. Last year, the President promised “more flexibility” regarding Russia’s objections to the U.S. missile defense system. The American people place a fundamental trust in the President to do all within his power to defend them against foreign military threats. It is only appropriate that the HASC seek stronger protection for U.S. missile defense information and seek to strengthen congressional oversight of the Administration’s missile defense cooperative efforts with Russia.
- Restrictions on funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The HASC chose to restrict some funding for the GTRI program unless the Administration certifies that the B-61 life extension program will deliver a first production unit in fiscal year 2019. Such a step is appropriate. The U.S. spends a majority of these funds in Russia, which has recently embarked on the largest nuclear weapons modernization program since the end of the Cold War. It is important that the U.S. revitalize its nuclear weapons infrastructure.
- Restrictions on the funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The bill would require the President to certify that no state party to the CTBT has conducted yield-producing experiments before resources for Threat Reduction Engagement activities are obligated. It would also ban CTBT entities from lobbying or advocating for the CTBT in the U.S. These steps are prudent. The Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999. The U.S. should not spend taxpayers’ dollars on implementing this treaty.
- Ban on the Pentagon’s efforts to conduct another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round. While the HASC is categorically opposed to any BRAC, the nation needs a new approach to thinking about military infrastructure. The new approach should be global, transparent, and conducted in close discussion and cooperation with affected local communities. The chief focus of the new process should be on preserving the U.S. military’s ability to meet requirements that policymakers demand of it. The NDAA also recognizes the value of forward-basing, especially in Europe, for unexpected international crises.
- Restrictions on the Pentagon’s green energy initiatives. The NDAA bans the Pentagon from procuring biofuels unless their cost is equivalent to conventional fuels. At a cost of $26 per gallon, this effort reflects the current fiscal realities and operational concerns with U.S. ships. The NDAA makes an exception if sequestration is resolved. It also prohibits the services from pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards if the investment is not fully offset by the amount of energy conserved, and it prohibits the Secretary of Defense from refurbishing or constructing new biofuel facilities unless specifically authorized by Congress.