House Committee Marks Up FY18 National Defense Authorization Act

Jun 29, 2017 Issues: Armed Services, Cybersecurity, Energy & Environment, Gun Safety, International Human Rights

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, offered his support for the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed out of committee late last night by a vote of 60-1. The annual defense bill, which sets policy and funding levels for the nation’s armed forces, authorizes a total of $621 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $75 billion for overseas contingency operations.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve on the Armed Services Committee on behalf of the selfless servicemen and women who protect our nation. I am proud of the strong bipartisan effort represented by this year’s NDAA, which makes crucial investments in our military as we face a challenging global threat environment,” said Langevin. “ISIL’s ongoing campaign of terror in Syria and Iraq, the continued provocations by the North Korean regime, and increased Russian belligerence all pose significant challenges to our national security. While this is not a perfect bill, it better positions our military to defend our interests at home and abroad, and I commend Chairman Thornberry and Ranking Member Smith for their work crafting it.”

As Ranking Member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities (ETC) Subcommittee, Langevin thanked Subcommittee Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) for her collaboration on their portion of the bill that continues to ramp up investment in vital cybersecurity capabilities to defend the nation in this new domain. The ETC portion of the NDAA contains a bill Langevin introduced with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to reinvigorate the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Cyber Scholarship Program. It also incorporates a measure developed by Reps. Langevin, Stefanik, Smith, and Thornberry to enhance Congressional oversight of sensitive cybersecurity operations.

“Cybersecurity is the national and economic security challenge of the 21st Century, and I am pleased our subcommittee continues to treat it as such by fully funding programs like the Persistent Cyber Training Environment, which provides the backbone for large-scale cyber training exercises,” said Langevin. “It makes clear our commitment to supporting our allies in cyberspace through sustainment funding for NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, which I recently visited and I’m pleased to report is providing vital operations, training, and policy development. We also support technological advancement in other emerging domains by funding the electromagnetic railgun and directed energy programs.”

The NDAA also includes provisions that speed acquisition of submarines, authorizing a three-per-year build plan for fast-attack Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Years 2020, 2022, and 2023. This increased build tempo will directly support Rhode Island jobs at General Dynamics Electric Boat facilities at Quonset Point.

Langevin offered six amendments, all of which were adopted by voice vote. Two in particular would strengthen the ability of the DOD to prepare for the national security effects of climate change. The first amendment, cosponsored by every Democratic member of the committee, states the sense of Congress that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States” and requires a report on the top 10 most vulnerable military installations in each of the Services. The other amendment provides $10 million in additional funding to the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to promote environmental and mission resiliency. Langevin also offered an amendment requesting the DOD brief the committee on efforts to use unmanned aircraft systems in humanitarian aid missions.

In a continued effort to keep tens of thousands of handguns off our streets, Langevin led the opposition against an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) that would require the DOD to transfer millions of dollars in handguns to the private Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP); however, the amendment was adopted by the committee following a roll call vote.

Langevin also remains concerned about the budget gimmickry that continues to be employed by House Republicans in crafting recent defense authorizations. $10 billion in base DOD funding is contained in the uncapped overseas contingency operations account, an accounting trick that undermines long term sustainability.

“Sequestration has been devastating to the readiness of our armed forces, and I am pleased that the committee is prepared to advocate for a removal of these harmful caps. However, the removal of the defense spending limits must be matched by increases in the non-defense accounts. Security is not just about bombs and bullets, it is also about being able to find a job and be secure in one’s healthcare. I hope that we will see this balanced approach prevail as we continue to consider elements of the 2018 budget,” added Langevin.

The NDAA now heads to the full House for consideration, which is expected in July.