Thursday, December 15, 2011

House Passes 50th Consecutive Defense Authorization Bill

In its race to the finish line, the House of Representatives passed the Conference Report to H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) on Wednesday. The legislation is the final step in fully funding the Department of Defense for the 2012 fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012. The bill would authorize $554 billion for domestic programs and $115.5 billion for overseas operations for our armed services. This reduces spending from FY2011 levels by $19 billion and reduces spending from President Obama’s proposed FY2012 budget by $24.1 billion. If sequestration takes effect for FY2013, an additional $500 billion is expected to be cut between FY2013 and FY2022.

“This legislation will ensure our troops have the resources they need and will provide the much-deserved support they have earned, while at the same time eliminating some unnecessary or wasteful spending at the Department of Defense,” stated Westmoreland. “As our country continues to be mired in overwhelming debt, no federal agency – not even the DOD – should be exempt from spending cuts. In fact, to date, over half of all deficit reduction efforts have come out of the military.”

The legislation authorizes funding for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, requires the president to sanction entities who engage in financial transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, and freezes nearly $700 million in aid to Pakistan. Although some activist organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have tried to claim that it gives the military the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil, the opposite is actually the case. The NDAA contains no provision to extend or create any new authority to detain U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and explicitly exempts U.S. citizens from provisions related to military custody of terrorists.

“I understand the concerns and that is why there were numerous questions asked about this, so I want to reassure that you will be protected,” stated Westmoreland. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens on U.S. soil will have due process and nothing within this legislation will take away that right. These people claiming your constitutional rights are violated by this legislation are using fear tactics to drum up support against legislation that is needed to make sure our men and women in uniform get paid for their service to our country.”

The Senate has yet to pass the conference report, but since it is an agreement between the two chambers it is expected they will do so before the end of the week. Once they approve it, it will be sent to the president for signature. Earlier, the president had threatened to veto the bill but has since lifted his threat.