For the third year in a row, the United States Senate is unlikely to approve its own version of the critically important Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). So much for being “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
After voting on September 18 on a bill to keep the government running through mid-December and authorize the training and equipping of so-called moderate Syrian rebels, Congress skipped town until after the November elections.
The NDAA is a sweeping measure that gives the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy the legal authority to fund and operate their activities. The NDAA also includes policy views and directives on defense-related matters. The NDAA is the single largest authorization bill that Congress considers, and one of the few bills passed every year, making the stakes for taxpayers very high. Congress has passed a defense authorization bill for 52 consecutive years.
On May 22, the House of Representatives approved its version of the bill by a vote of 325-98—after debating and voting on dozens of amendments. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version on May 23, but the bill was never brought up on the Senate floor. Few think it likely that the Senate will pass its own bill during the lame duck session. As both the Senate and House versions were considered earlier in the year, these versions of the NDAA do not address the current U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria.
In light of the Senate’s failure to take up the bill, members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and their staff have begun meeting behind closed doors to discuss reconciling differences between the two bills – with the goal of paving the way for Congress to take up a pared down, final version of the bill when lawmakers return in November.
As the House and Senate work behind the scenes to write a final bill, it should take the following seven steps to protect U.S. national security. These recommendations, echoed in a bipartisan letter signed by our sister organization, Council for a Livable World, will remain relevant even in the unlikely event that the Senate takes up the Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA later this year:
- Restore funding for nuclear and radiological material security programs and refrain from placing legislative constraints on nuclear security work with Russia;
- Allow the Pentagon to determine the most cost-effective method for maintaining Minuteman III ICBM silos;
- Fully fund implementation of the New START treaty;
- Require an annual report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear stockpile and complex;
- Allow U.S. negotiators the freedom to negotiate a tough and verifiable nuclear agreement with Iran;
- Prohibit the use of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account as a slush fund; and
- Reduce excess funding for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
Read the rest of the report here.