6/06/2016 — 

Mr. Reed: Madam President, I rise to discuss the fiscal year 2017 national defense authorization bill, which was passed out of the Armed Services Committee on May 19 by a vote of 23 to 3. I want to begin by thanking Chairman McCain, not only for his kind and thoughtful words but for ably leading the committee through many thought-provoking hearings and a successful markup with bipartisan support of the bill. I believe the committee has worked diligently in the past month, not only to evaluate the President's budget request for fiscal year 2017 but also to take a hard look at the Department of Defense and to consider what reforms are necessary. Most, if not all, of that effort is a direct result of the leadership of Chairman McCain and his commitment to ensuring that we were thoroughly immersed in the details, that we had access to expert testimony, and that we heard both sides of the argument and led to the markup, which was productive and has resulted in the legislation that is before us today.

I think we both agree that we can make improvements, and we both will strive to do that over the course of the next several weeks and in our deliberation with the House, but we are beginning with very thoughtful and very constructive legislation that we brought to the floor. I thank the chairman for that.

There are many provisions in this bill that will help the Department today and in the future. It is a lengthy bill that contains sweeping reforms, as the chairman described in some detail, and I support many aspects of this bill. In fact, I was privileged to work with the chairman and our staffs in developing some of these aspects. Because of the scope and because of the range of these improvements and reforms, I believe -and I think this is shared by others - that we need a continued dialogue with the Department of Defense and other experts to ensure that we not only take the first steps but that the subsequent consequences, both intended and unintended, are well known and contribute to our overall national security. We truly must ensure that our decisions which are ultimately incorporated in this legislation improve the Department's operations and do not create unnecessary and detrimental consequences.

Let me highlight some of the aspects of the bill that will help our military in ongoing overseas operations. We are engaged in a difficult struggle with ISIL and radical extremists, and critical to our efforts to fight against ISIL are our local partners. That is why this bill includes $1.3 billion to support the Iraq and Syria train-and-equip programs and $180 million to support the efforts of Jordan and Lebanon to secure their borders. The bill also includes $3.4 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to preserve the gains of the last 15 years. These are critical investments that enhance our interests and keep pressure on our enemy.

The bill provides the funds necessary to enable our operations across Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and other locations where ISIL, Al Qaeda, and its remnants are located. This funding will continue to enable the Department to hunt the leaders of these organizations and illuminate their network of supporters. Ensuring that there is continuous pressure on violent extremists is critical, and it is with that focus that the chairman and I worked to include these important elements in the legislation.

The bill funds U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, at the requested level of $10.76 billion, including an increase of $26.7 million to help address technology gaps identified by SOCOM on its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, which are important to our ability to effectively carry out counterterrorism strikes while avoiding collateral damage. The bill also extends critical authorities used by special operations forces and enhances the role of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict in providing oversight and advocacy for SOCOM within the Department.

The fight against terrorism is not our fight alone, and it requires the support of old and new partners across the globe. This bill will enable the Department of Defense to support and enable our foreign partners and also, critically, will continue to provide support to our intelligence community to protect the homeland.

Of major significance, this year's bill would undertake the most comprehensive reform of the Defense Department's security cooperation enterprise in decades. Since 9/11, Congress, partly at the request of the Department and partly through our own doing, has created dozens of new authorities to enable our Armed Forces to engage with the national security forces of friendly foreign countries. This patchwork has been difficult to navigate and oversee. To address this problem, this bill would consolidate and streamline security cooperation authorities. This will greatly enhance the Defense Department's ability to address the wide-ranging and evolving nature of global threats. Additionally, the NDAA consolidates roughly $2 billion in security cooperation funding into a new fund, the Security Cooperation Enhancement Fund. This new fund will enhance public transparency, increase flexibility, and improve congressional oversight.

While the Department of Defense is responsible for only two of the administration's nine lines of effort against ISIL--and this bill funds those two lines of effort--DOD also plays an essential enabling role for many other parts of our government, particularly in the areas of intelligence collection and analysis. This bill ensures the Department is able to continue this critical support so we can maintain an integrated effort against our enemy. The Department of Defense is not the only Federal agency that is responsible for our Nation's security. All agencies have a role and should receive the resources they need.

The bill before us also includes $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative, which will deliver critical investments to increase U.S. military presence in Europe, improve existing infrastructure, and enhance allied and partner military capabilities to respond to external aggression and bolster regional stability. It also authorizes up to $500 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to continue the ongoing efforts to support the Ukrainian security forces in the defense of their country.

One major concern the committee heard repeatedly, and the chairman made reference to on numerous occasions, is about the state of readiness with our troops and their equipment. I am very pleased that this bill contains almost $2 billion in additional readiness funding to satisfy some of the Service Chiefs' unfunded requirements, with the goal of restoring military readiness as soon as possible. Additionally, all of these increases are paid for with corresponding and targeted funding reductions.

One other aspect of our national security is our nuclear deterrent. In many cases, it forms the bedrock of our defense posture. This is an essential mission which must not be neglected and our committee continues to support it on a bipartisan basis.

The bill continues to fund the President's request to modernize our triad of nuclear-capable air, sea, and ground delivery platforms. This is the first year of full engineering, manufacturing, and development funding for the B-21, which will replace the B-52s that were built in the 1960s. While the B-21 will be costly, I believe this bill places rigorous oversight on the program to ensure that we understand the technology risk as it moves forward.

Turning to the area of undersea deterrence, if we are to maintain a sea-based deterrent, the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class submarines must be replaced starting in 2027 due to the potential for hull fatigue. By then, the first Ohio submarine will be 46 years old--the oldest submarine to have sailed in our Navy in its history.

The third aspect of our triad, our land-based ICBMs, will not need to be replaced until the 2030s. We have authorized the initial development of a replacement for this responsive leg of the triad, which acts as a counterbalance to Russian ICBMs.

Let me focus for a moment on the submarine program, which is frankly an important part of our national security and an important industry for my home State where this construction begins. This bill supports the Virginia-class attack submarine production at a level of two per year. The Navy's requirement for attack submarines is a force of 48 boats. Since attack submarine force levels will fall below 48, even with the purchase of two Virginia-class submarines per year, we cannot allow the production rates to drop at all.

The bill also supports the Virginia Payload Module upgrade to the Virginia-class submarines, with production starting in fiscal year 2019. The Virginia Payload Module program is important to begin replacing Tomahawk missile magazine capacity that will decline sharply as we retire the Navy's four guided missile submarines in the next decade.

Our support of the Virginia-class attack submarine program has led to stability that helped drive down costs and improve productivity. This bill continues that support and also supports the plans for achieving similar effectiveness on the Ohio replacement program. Establishing and achieving cost reduction goals in these Virginia-class and Ohio replacement programs will yield significant stability to our Nation's submarine base, which will ensure the Navy has a modern, capable submarine fleet for many years to come.

The chairman also indicated in his remarks that the bill accomplishes much on behalf of our servicemembers and the Department of Defense. It authorizes a 1.6 percent pay raise for all servicemembers and reauthorizes a number of expiring bonus and special pay authorities to encourage enlistment, re-enlistment, and continued service by active duty and reserve component military personnel. The bill permanently extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance scheduled to expire next year, clarifies the applicability of certain employment rights for military technicians, establishes an independent National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to review the Selective Service process, and makes numerous enhancements to military whistleblower protections.

Notably, this bill also contains a robust package of health care reforms. The current military health care system, designed decades ago, has served us well. Since 2001, battlefield survival rates have been higher than at any time in our Nation's history. Clearly, battlefield medicine is a pocket of excellence in the military health system that must be maintained. However, it is also clear that the military health care system has increasingly emphasized delivering peacetime healthcare, and beneficiaries have voiced their concerns about access to care.

While I know that many in the military community are wary of changes to the healthcare system, I believe the reforms included in this bill are designed to improve and maintain operational medical force readiness while at the same time affording better value to TRICARE beneficiaries by providing higher quality medical care, with better access to that care, and a better experience of care.

I am also pleased to note that the mark includes the 105 recommendations of the Military Justice Review Group. The review group was made up of judges and lawyers, all military justice experts, who spent 18 months reviewing and providing recommended changes to update the entire Uniform Code of Military Justice. These provisions provide a much-needed updating of the military justice system, and I want to commend the members of the review group for their work and also the counsels on the committee, Gary Leeling and Steve Barney, for all their efforts in this area.

Again, a major effort, as has been highlighted by the chairman, is to continue the Senate tradition for improving the way DOD buys everything, from major systems like the F-35 and submarines to office support services, to spare parts, and even to the buying of new technologies and next-generation research products.

I am pleased we have taken positive steps to strengthen our contracting and program management workforces and support Secretary Carter's efforts to reach out to innovative Silicon Valley companies and other high-tech small businesses. I am glad we are building on the considerable and successful efforts Under Secretary Frank Kendall has taken to control costs and improve delivery times of our major weapons systems through his active management and leadership, which have resulted in a very successful series of better buying power procurement reforms.

Consistent with those efforts, we have taken steps to improve our ability to estimate costs of new weapons systems, especially the cost to maintain them in the field or at sea, sometimes for decades, and to de-layer the bureaucracy and untangle the redtape that the Pentagon acquisition process has sometimes been very much weighted down by.

We can use better data and better analysis to make better decisions on what we acquire and how we maintain it. I want to note that I believe there are a few provisions where continued dialogue with the Pentagon can improve our bill and make sure we achieve our shared goal: delivering the best and most modern systems to our forces, while protecting taxpayer money in the most responsible manner possible.

I hope we can work together to reexamine and refine a few provisions of the bill to that end. For example, I am concerned that we overly limit the flexibility of DOD to use all available contract types to best balance the needs of government and industry. I am pleased the bill before us is very supportive of the scientists, engineers, and other technical innovators in organizations like DARPA, in the Department of Defense, and in DOD laboratories across the Nation.

We fully fund the President's request for science and technology research programs, including the university research programs that are the foundation of almost all military and commercial technology. We also fully fund the important work of DARPA and the Strategic Capabilities Office, both of which are working to develop the next-generation systems that will dominate the battlefields of the future, on the ground, on the sea, under the sea, in space, and in cyber space.

We also take important steps to ensure that DOD can better compete with the private sector for a limited and shrinking pool of world-class technical talent. I am pleased to see we have given the DOD labs and DARPA important tools to hire the best scientists and engineers through faster hiring processes and some special pay authorities.

We have also taken steps to cut the redtape that often ties up these organizations and keeps them from achieving their full innovative potential, as well as to allow the labs to more easily build and maintain modern research equipment and laboratory facilities. One of the major challenges facing DOD is the difficulty in moving such a large and diverse organization to adopt new and more efficient business practices.

I am pleased the bill provides a number of authorities and pilot programs that will allow the Department to explore new business practices, informed by best commercial practices, which hopefully will drive down costs and reduce the bureaucratic burdens on the military. For example, we push for the Department to make more use of the burgeoning field of big data and data analytics so it can collect and use information and data in a much more sophisticated way, to improve DOD management, human resources, and acquisition practices. Big data techniques are changing the way the commercial sector markets products, manufactures, and manages supply chains and logistics. It is even changing the way people manage sports teams. We would like to see similar techniques and technological advances used in ways that will improve the efficiency of the Pentagon and its processes.

We take a major step in this bill to redesignate the position of the Under Secretary for Acquisition Technology and Logistics as the Under Secretary for Research and Engineering. I understand and support the chairman's intent to make sure that innovation, research, and technology are at the forefront of Pentagon thinking. We all know we are now in a world where the Pentagon can no longer corner the market on the best people or the best new technologies.

Our foreign competitors are closing the gap on our battlefield technological superiority, and global commercial companies are far outspending the government on the development of new systems and technology in areas like cyber security, biotechnology, aerospace, and others that are critical to the future of our national security.

I hope the reorganization and realignment steps we take in this bill support DOD's effort to stay at the leading edge of technological advances. I worry that we may not understand all of the implications of the major changes we are proposing, and I hope we can continue to have a robust and open dialogue, including with the Pentagon's leadership, so we can take these steps in a thoughtful, considered way.

Once again, we have taken very bold and very thoughtful steps, but I think we can enhance these steps with a bigger, productive dialogue. This bill takes several other steps to reform both the organizational structures of the civilian and military leadership and also the Pentagon's overall approach to its operations. One of the most significant provisions of the bill is the creation of cross-functional teams. The Office of the Secretary of Defense is organized exclusively along functional lines, such as acquisition, personnel, logistics, finance, and intelligence, but the real work of the Department is mission performance, which requires integrating across all of these functional stovepipes to achieve specific objectives. This integration task has always been a serious challenge, conducted through layers of management spanning more and more functional boundaries, ending with the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The Armed Services Committee, in the years before drafting the Goldwater-Nichols act, grappled with the broad problem of mission integration across DOD. The committee found solutions for achieving “jointness” in the combat operations of the Department, but the committee was unable, at that time, to find practical mechanisms to achieve mission integration in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The problem of integrating across silos of function expertise is not unique to DOD or the government as a whole. Industry has long struggled with the same problem. Not surprisingly, industry has pioneered effective ways to integrate across their enterprises, dramatically improving outcomes in shorter timeframes, and ultimately streamlining and flattening organizational structures. This bill is the first major step in applying these concepts systematically in government. It will not be easy. There will be resistance to such changes, but I believe we are taking steps in the right direction, and I encourage the leadership of the Department of Defense to work with Congress to make this reform successful.

Another important provision is a reform of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, JROC, which shepherds the joint acquisition process. This bill elevates the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from merely “first among equals” on the Council to the principal adviser to the

Chairman on military requirements. The committee hopes this change will solve one of the most important and consistent criticisms of the JROC; namely, that it is a quid-pro-quo process dominated by parochial service interests.

There are other reform provisions--changes to the role of Chairman of the Joint Staffs and Combatant Commands, a reduction in the number of general and flag officers, and a change to the type of strategy doctrines produced by the Department. Again, these reforms are a good start, but these are major changes that may have unforeseen consequences. I think they would benefit, again, from further discussion with the Defense Department's military and civilian leadership and outside experts. I encourage and look forward to that dialogue.

Let me highlight one provision of the bill that I am somewhat concerned with. It limits the Defense Department's ability to implement an important Executive order that protects the health, safety, and labor rights of veterans, disabled persons, and other persons of the defense industry workforce. The Executive order is an important tool to ensure that DOD is working with responsible contractors that are more likely to deliver goods and services critical to national security on time and on budget when they are following these procedures.

This order is being implemented in a way that protects the rights of all employees, while also protecting due process rights for the companies concerned, and ensuring that there is no discrimination against them based on incomplete evidence of wrongdoing or unsubstantiated allegations. I hope we can work to continue a policy, as enunciated by the Executive order, that I think we can all support, ensuring DOD is working with responsible contractors to protect our workforce and support national security missions.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about the funding levels for defense. The bill reported out of committee includes $523.9 billion in discretionary spending for defense base budget requirements and $58.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. It also includes $19.3 billion for Department of Energy-related activities, resulting in a top-line funding level of $602 billion for discretionary national defense spending.

While these funding levels adhere to the spending limits mandated by the Bipartisan Budget Act, BBA, of 2015, concerns have been raised that the Department requires additional resources. As all Members are aware, when the Senate considered the BBA last fall, it established the discretionary funding levels of defense spending for fiscal year 2017.

That agreement passed this chamber with support from Senators from both political parties. Furthermore, the BBA split the increase in discretionary spending evenly between the security and nonsecurity categories. As we consider the fiscal year 2017 NDAA, there is likely to be--in fact, the chairman has made it very clear--an effort to increase military spending above the level established by the BBA.

It is important to remember that since the Budget Control Act was enacted in 2011, we have made repeated incremental changes to the discretionary budget caps for both defense and nondefense accounts. We have done so in order to provide some budget certainty to the Department of Defense and also to domestic agencies. As debate on this bill continues, the chairman has indicated he will propose an amendment to increase spending for defense only.

Again, this seems to run counter to the central tenets of all the previous budget negotiation agreements. If defense funds are increased, funding for domestic agencies must also be increased, I believe. In addition, this is a point that I think all of us acknowledge, our national security is broader than simply the accounts in the Department of Defense. It is the FBI, it is the Department of Homeland Security, and it is many other agencies that contribute to our national security.

Let me conclude, once again, by thanking the chairman and my colleagues on the committee who contributed significantly and thoughtfully through this whole process, and I particularly thank the staff who worked laboriously and at great personal cost to ensure that we have a bill we can bring to our colleagues on the floor and stand and continue a very thoughtful, vigorous, and important dialogue about the national security of the United States. Let me thank them.

I know there are many amendments that have been filed. I look forward to working with the chairman and all of my colleagues to get this legislation completed and sent forward.

I yield the floor.