WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the $612 billion Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which guides military policy and oversight, and provides a framework for defense expenditures.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, worked on a bipartisan basis with Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) to shape the bill, which contains many important reforms. Over 600 amendments were filed to the bill, and after nearly three weeks of consideration on the floor, McCain and Reed were able to include many of them, from both parties. However, Reed voted against the bill because he said it was “seriously flawed” by an inefficient, irresponsible budget gimmick that underfunds the Pentagon’s base budget while inflating the emergency war spending account known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which is exempted from Budget Control Act spending caps. As a result, about one out of every six dollars in this year’s NDAA, roughly $88.9 billion, is counted off the books.
After the vote, Senator Reed issued the following statement:
“There are many needed reforms in the NDAA, and I applaud Chairman McCain for his leadership and fidelity to our men and women in uniform. I know he wants a bill that is worthy of their sacrifice and commend his efforts to try and build consensus.
"But this bill is seriously flawed. It misaligns an over-reliance on emergency war funding with strategic planning. As a result, it falls short of responsibly providing our troops with the support they deserve. Instead of helping the Pentagon operate more effectively, this misuse of short-term OCO funds for non-war related activities would hinder our military’s ability to plan for the future.
"The Republican bill swells overseas war spending accounts with $38.9 billion more than what our service chiefs requested. That is a recipe for waste and abuse and sets a dangerous precedent.
“Instead of dodging fiscal responsibility, Republicans need to help end sequestration and get back to a normal budget process.
Reed also noted that many Republicans voted against the NDAA in years past and repeatedly filibustered it when Democrats were in charge. They halted the NDAA to undermine repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” tried to derail it over a provision offering a path to citizenship for soldiers whose parents were undocumented immigrants, withheld support over gas prices and unrelated energy policy, and said no to the bill because the President threatened a veto, just as President Obama has done in this case. Reed continued:
“Today, some are wrongly accusing opponents of the OCO gimmick as being somehow less patriotic. It’s the same flawed rhetoric used against those of us who opposed the Iraq War. The fact is: Democrats cooperated every step of the way to advance this bill for debate and consideration, give it an up or down vote, and create the space for reasonable compromise. We won’t give up on finding a credible, enduring solution.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to find a more balanced, responsible way to address defense and domestic spending, because they are both essential to the security and financial well-being of the American people. The Department of Defense is critical to national security, but so is the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and many other federal agencies working hard to keep Americans safe. If Republicans insist on cutting funding to law enforcement and other vital public safety programs, it will make our nation less secure.
“Our troops face enough challenges without Congress manufacturing new ones. Despite Chairman McCain’s efforts, the Republican leadership is steering the NDAA and the appropriations process toward another fiscal cliff that leads to another omnibus or continuing resolution.
“We have a constitutional duty to provide for the common defense, and a moral responsibility to defend taxpayers’ interests. I will continue advocating for a strong military and good government, and the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
“Looking ahead, both parties have to come together to negotiate a bipartisan budget deal that keeps us strong at home and abroad, provides honest and stable funding for our national defense, and avoids an unnecessary crisis at the end of the year,” Reed concluded.