Monday, September 29, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

Last week, Congress completed action on both the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Bill and the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill. The latter measure was passed in a package of bills that included the Continuation Resolution to fund through March government agencies for which no appropriations bill has been passed, three appropriations bills, loans to Detroit auto makers, and other bills. The House also passed a new Iran sanctions bill and the latest version of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. The fate of these two measures remains uncertain, as Congress is about to adjourn for the year.



On September 24, the House adopted H.R. 2638, a package of three appropriations bills -- Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction-Veterans' Administration -- as part of the Continuing Resolution to fund through March government agencies for which no appropriations bill has been approved. This procedure was highly unusual. The bill provides $487.7 billion in total defense funding, $4 billion less than the administration's request but 6.2 percent above the FY2008 funding level. The package does not appropriate any funding for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Noteworthy provisions in the Defense Appropriations bill:

  • Prohibits the use of funds to establish any permanent military installation or base in Iraq.
  • Appropriates $434 million, $20 million above the administration's request, for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) or "Nunn-Lugar" program.
  • Funds a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel, 0.5 percent higher than the administration's request.
  • Includes the Defense Department's requested active duty personnel increases of 7,000 for the Army (to 532,400) and 5,000 for the Marine Corps (to 194,000). The Navy would decrease by 4,821 (to 325,300) while the Air Force would decrease by 12,792 (to 316,771), rather than by the 12,963 requested.

On Saturday, September 27, the Senate passed the same measure by a vote of 78 - 12, with one Senator voting present. The opponents were mostly fiscal conservatives.


On September 23, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees came to agreement on a compromise bill.

Among the victories in the bill:

  • Cut all funds for the Reliable Replacement nuclear Warhead.
  • Denied any funds for the Space Test Bed for space-based interceptor weapons.
  • Authorized $465.8 million for the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, a cut of $246.3 million, while adding some tough restrictions on the program.
  • Increased funding for non-proliferation programs.
  • Declined to add any new sanctions on Iran.
  • Severely criticized the national missile defense program.

On September 24, the House approved the bill by a vote of 392 to 39.

On September 27, in a rare Saturday session, the Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent. Earlier, objections to the bill had led Senate Majority Leader Reid to file cloture to force a vote, but opponents relented and let the bill slide through. The President is expected to sign the bill.


On September 27, the House approved the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval by a vote of 298 - 117. The measure as passed by the House is identical to the version approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 23 by a vote of 19 -2, with only Sens. Feingold (D-WI) and Boxer (D-CA) voting no. The Senate still has to pass the measure before it can go to the President for signing, and Senate action is up in the air.


On September 26, the House approved by voice vote H.R. 7112, a bill to place additional sanctions on Iran. The bill closely resembles S. 3445, a bill in the Senate. However, with Congress winding down for the year, the measure that passed the House may die.

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