Monday, May 19, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

With Congress headed into a Memorial Day recess at the end of the week, the pace of action on national security legislation has picked up. There is nothing like a deadline to force decisions.

Last week, the House of Representatives completed action on the Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unexpectedly rejected new war funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar supplemental bill, and the full Senate is expected to take action on the bill this week. Last week, the House Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill, and the full House has scheduled consideration this week.

This week, Congress may also vote on the Fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution conference report and the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the nominations of Gen. David Petraeus to lead the U.S. Central Command and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno to command of U.S. forces in Iraq.


On May 15, the House of Representatives took action on the Supplemental Appropriations bill (HR 2642) by approving two parts of the bill but rejecting funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also on May 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote the Supplemental Appropriations bill. The Committee also approved three separate amendments: $169 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; more than $25 billion for new domestic spending; and provisions limiting the President’s authority to wage unrestrained war, including setting a goal for most U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by June 2009.

Along the way, the Committee added many provisions on a bi-partisan basis that the House did not consider. Among the Committee-approved provisions is one that provides incentives for Highly Enriched Uranium imports from Russia.

Two amendments were rejected after extensive debate:

  • A Brownback (R-KS) amendment limiting a waiver of sanctions against North Korea to permit the U.S. to help North Korea dismantle its nuclear program failed 6 -23.
  • An Allard (R-CO) amendment to permit oil shale mining was defeated 14 – 15.

The full Senate is expected to take up the bill this week. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) plan -- at least before the House defeated war funding -- was to bring the House-passed Supplemental Appropriations bill directly to the Senate floor, and then have the Appropriations Committee offer its bill as amendments to the House-passed bill. It is not clear whether this procedure will now be modified.


On May 1, the Senate Armed Services Committee released its markup of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill.

This bill, as reported to the full Senate by the Armed Services Committee, fully funds the administration’s $612.5 billion FY2009 national defense request, as did the FY2009 Budget Resolution passed by the Senate on March 13.

Noteworthy provisions in the Senate Armed Services Committee's marked up bill include:

  • Retains the budget request for Reliable Replacement Warhead at the National Nuclear Security Administration, but reduces Navy RRW funding by $23 million.
  • Adds more than $120 million for various nuclear nonproliferation efforts.
  • Amends the Arms Export Control Act to provide limited waiver authority to allow the Departments of Energy and Defense to conduct work to denuclearize North Korea, and adds $50 million to NNSA for this work.
  • Authorizes full funding for the administration’s $720 million request for the third missile defense site in Europe, but limits the use of funds for construction or deployment until two conditions are met: 1) the European government gives final approval (including parliamentary approval) of any deployment agreement negotiated with the United States; and 2) 45 days have elapsed after Congress receives the report required in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008.
  • Prohibits using DOD funds authorized by the bill from being used for large-scale (defined as over $2 million) infrastructure projects in Iraq.

The full Senate is likely to consider the bill in June.

Early in the morning of May 15, the House Armed Services Committee approved by a vote of 61 – 0 the annual Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 5658). The bill authorizes $531.4 billion for the regular budget, plus an additional $70 billion as a down payment on next year’s costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for a total of $601.4 billion.

Some of the major decisions include:

  • Cut the $712 million request for a proposed third missile defense site in Europe by $371 million (Everett [R-AL] amendment to restore the funds rejected 24 - 34).
  • Conditioned most of the spending on the third missile defense site on certification of the system’s effectiveness and approval of the plan by the Polish and Czech parliaments.
  • Cut all $10 million for the Space Test Bed for space-based interceptor weapons (Everett (R-AL) amendment to restore $5 million to study the program rejected 26 - 33).
  • Authorized $254.4 million for the Multiple Kill Vehicle missile defense system, a reduction of $100 million (Franks [R-AZ] amendment to restore the funds failed 25 - 34).
  • Redirected $10 million in the National Nuclear Security Administration budget request for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and $23.2 million in the Navy budget for the RRW to other, higher priority activities.
  • Authorized $445.1 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, an increase of $31 million.
  • Approved $1.5 million for Department of Energy non-proliferation programs, an increase of $215 million.
  • Recommended $389.6 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), an increase of $170 million.

The Committee rejected a Saxton (R-NJ) amendment setting a four percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) planning figure for the Pentagon budget when it instead approved 34 - 27 a Spratt (D-SC) amendment stating that defense spending should be based on threats and security strategy.

The Committee also watered down a Hunter (R-CA) - Franks (R-AZ) amendment that would have required the Pentagon to develop and maintain a military option against Iran. The eventual amendment adopted by voice vote requires a Pentagon report on the full range of Middle East contingencies, including Iran and its nuclear facilities.


A House-Senate conference to resolve differences between the two versions of the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution has almost reached a deal in the week before the Memorial Day recess. The conferees agreed on a $3 trillion budget that is about $20 billion above President Bush's request. If the budget resolution is approved, it will be the first time since 2000.


On May 14, the House passed two bills by voice vote related to North Korea. One bill, H.R. 5834, increased refugee assistance and human rights and democracy-building programs in North Korea. The second bill, H.R. 5916, waived provisions in law that hindered U.S. assistance to North Korea in order to facilitate dismantling its nuclear plants. A similar provision is contained in the Senate version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill.

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