WASHINGTON - Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, voted “no” on committee passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20).
“Traditionally, the NDAA earns broad bipartisan support from Members on both sides of the aisle. Because of that joint effort in the past, Congress was able to start rebuilding our Navy to reach 355 ships, combat our readiness crisis, and give our servicemembers the tools they need to be successful.
“However, today HASC Democrats made history – and not in a good way. They chose to ignore the needs of the DoD, and as a result, reported out of the committee an NDAA passed on a party line vote for the first time in nearly 60 years. The majority was adamant about ignoring the budget request by the Department of Defense for a 3% real growth; the minimum budget requirement former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Acting Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford have stated is needed to meet the threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy. I refuse to put our servicemembers into anything that could be considered a fair fight, and for that reason I could not support final passage out of the committee this morning. Thankfully there is still opportunity to correct course. The Senate NDAA includes the correct topline amount, giving the Conference Committee the opportunity to right this wrong.
“If we had restored the $17 billion in funding the DoD said it needs, we would restore valuable assets of the Seapower portfolio. We would have restored almost $400 million in aircraft carrier construction and almost $200 million in aircraft carrier refueling, restored almost $100 million in destroyer construction, and restored of $246.3 million for large unmanned surface vessels. Those are funds the Navy needs now to reach our nation’s policy of 355 ships.
“While I could not support final passage, there were several provisions, specifically from the Seapower and Projection Forces portfolio, that I championed, and I am glad to see they are in the final mark headed to the House floor. The mark authorizes the procurement of 11 ships, including three Virginia-class submarines, authorizing the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the USS Truman, and making landmark investments in our auxiliary forces.
“Since the dawn of our nation, our Armed Forces have stood up and fought for our freedom; we sleep soundly because of their bravery. I am still optimistic about the future of this legislation and I look forward to fighting for the funding the DoD requested and the tools our warfighters need. We owe them nothing but the best.”
Several Items Rep. Wittman Supports:
Continues to Make Important Investments: The mark maintains a strong investment in shipbuilding – authorizing 11 ships including 3 Virginia-class attack submarines, fully funding the Columbia-class submarine program and recommending additional funds for submarine supplier development, and expanding the merchant marine by increasing the U.S. flagged tanker fleet by ten vessels.
Continues to Support the Troops: The mark supports a 3.1% military pay raise, essential end strength increases, an increase in compensation for military spouses to acquire professional licenses, and significant bipartisan housing reform to protect military families. The bill continues reforms focused on sexual assault prevention and response. The final text also prohibits the reduction of military health care personnel.
Continues Important Oversight: The Committee’s mark continues the HASC tradition of robust oversight of major weapons systems, sensitive military operations and activities, including cyber, counterterrorism, and intelligence.
Several Items of Concern:
Topline: The Committee’s mark cuts $17 billion from the President’s budget request. The Committee received repeated testimony, including from Acting Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford, that the military needs between 3%-5% real growth to continue readiness restoration and to deter threats posed by Russia and China. The Committee heard no testimony supporting arbitrary cuts to the topline. The proposed cuts directly impact readiness recovery, military personnel, and America’s ability to deter Russia, China, and other malign actors.
GTMO: The mark- while purporting simply to ban new detainee transfers to GTMO- also requires a plan that will ultimately lead to the transfer of current detainees to the United States. Moreover, it does not contain the traditional prohibitions against transferring detainees to the United States. Finally, the mark did not support a High Value Detention Facility to replace a failing facility that is putting U.S. military personnel at risk
Military Personnel Funding: Our servicemembers richly deserve their hard-earned pay and benefits. Many military families must rely on the servicemember’s income alone to make ends meet because of high military spouse unemployment rates and military childcare shortages. Despite supporting a 3.1% military pay raise, the mark calls for over $1.2 billion in military personnel funding cuts, making it more difficult for the military to meet its obligations to our servicemembers and their families.
Readiness Funding: Following sustained, focused oversight from the Armed Services Committee and a significant targeted increase in resources, the Committee received testimony that the degradation in readiness has been arrested and accident rates have begun to decline. Rep. Wittman believes that the billions cut from readiness programs necessitated by the lower topline endangers key readiness recovery efforts.
Modernization Funding: The lower topline also makes unwise cuts to vital modernization programs critical to deter Russia and China, including hypersonics, 5G, LCS, and other programs.
Nuclear Modernization and Strategic Deterrence: The Committee’s mark makes significant reductions to nuclear modernization and recapitalization programs. These programs traditionally receive bipartisan support and many date back to recommendations made by the Obama Administration. In addition to prohibiting the deployment of new low-yield weapons, the mark weakens our deterrent posture against Russia and China and defers essential safety upgrades.
Border Policy: The Committee’s mark contains many provisions related to Congressional oversight in response to the diversion of resources to border security and repeated deployments in support of DHS activities. It is overly prescriptive with its presumptive ban on construction projects. The effect of these prohibitions – if passed in the final NDAA – would pull back those military construction funds not already obligated for border barrier construction once the NDAA is enacted. Rep. Wittman is concerned that the restrictions on reprioritizing military construction funds could hamper the recovery of other critical infrastructure – a major readiness concern. In addition, it does not restore military construction funding diverted to border barrier construction. Refusing to restore these funds forces our troops – whose lives often depend on military infrastructure – to pay the price of political discord in Washington.