Langevin Statement on Mark-Up of FY16 National Defense Authorization Act

Apr 30, 2015 Issues: Armed Services, Cybersecurity, LGBT Rights

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, offered his support for the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed out of committee early today by a vote of 60-2 and now heads to the House floor for consideration in May. The NDAA authorizes $612 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $89.2 billion for overseas operations.

“There is no question that the world is a very dangerous place, and it is the critical responsibility of this committee to support our armed services as they defend our nation and its people. I want to thank Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) for their leadership in crafting a mark that navigates a complex national security landscape and the threats we face at home, abroad and in cyberspace,” said Langevin. “This authorization represents a significant step forward in caring for the needs of our service men and women. It includes a modest, but much-needed, pay raise for our troops; extends retirement benefits for military service; protects the rights of LGBT service members; opens up opportunity for women in the military; defends veterans against predatory lending; and expands resources for victims of sexual assault.”

As ranking member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities (ETC) subcommittee, Langevin thanked subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC) and applauded their subcommittee colleagues for producing a sound proposal. The subcommittee’s recommendations, which were adopted by the full committee, fully resource and authorize U.S. Cyber Command programs. The ETC section of the bill also reauthorizes the Rapid Innovation Program, increases oversight of sensitive operations, aids in the efforts to combat terrorist threats such as ISIL, and supports military members and their families. Additionally, the bill provides for important investments in crucial research and development programs, as well as the integration of advanced technologies into future Department of Defense planning.

“I am particularly pleased with the work of our Emerging Threats subcommittee. I am so proud of the bipartisan history that this subcommittee enjoys, and this mark is a better product because of it,” Langevin said. “As co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I am encouraged to see this committee’s commitment to strengthening our nation’s cyber defenses as an integral component of our overall national security strategy.”

Langevin applauded several aspects of the overall bill, including its support for undersea capabilities such as the peerless Virginia-class submarine, but cautioned against other elements included in the mark and committed to working across the aisle to further improve the NDAA.

“I have significant concerns over provisions in this authorization that would overburden our Navy fleet, prevent the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and limit our military’s ability to invest in and utilize alternative energy options,” he said. “I am likewise disturbed by the decisions to prohibit portal monitors designed to detect nuclear material smuggling overseas and erode the protections of the Endangered Species Act.”

Disregarding a request by U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert to maintain the cruiser modernization period at four years, HASC Republicans approved an accelerated plan that could pose significant financial and logistical challenges, straining both the shipbuilding industrial base and the Navy. Committee Republicans likewise ignored Department of Defense requests to wind down operations at unnecessary military facilities, among other cost-saving measures.

In addition to opposing these measures, Langevin vehemently opposed an amendment that expanded the Civilian Marksmanship Program to firearms in general, as opposed to rifles alone.

“It is far from clear to me how the sale of pistols to the civilian population promotes rifle marksmanship for our national defense. I also believe that this amendment ignores the very real differences between handguns and rifles in their use in crime,” Langevin said. “If the excellent private training programs have obviated the need for a government-subsidized alternative, then I am happy to yield to the ingenuity of the private sector, especially if it does not involve injecting 100,000 additional handguns onto our streets.”

“This is an imperfect bill, and I hope we can continue to work together to make improvements that are in the best interest of national security,” he continued. “The HASC markup includes many important provisions, however, and I am proud of the committee’s bipartisan commitment to supporting our men and women in uniform and prioritizing the safety and security of our troops, our nation and our allies.”