Legislative Branch Activity
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
Over the course of two days last week, the House debated over 150 amendments to its FY 2014 NDAA bill (H.R. 1960). Notably, the House approved by 305-121 an amendment to transfer all combat operations to Afghans by the end of this year and withdraw all U.S. forces and contractors from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. H.R. 1960 passed by a vote of 315-108 and authorizes $638.4 billion for discretionary and mandatory defense programs. The bill also designates $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations.
Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) advanced its FY 2014 NDAA bill (S. 1034) by a vote of 23-3 to the Senate floor. Unlike the House version, the Senate bill included language that would allow the President flexibility to move detainees from the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba to the United States for trial, further detention, or to a third-party country. SASC Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) said he and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) plan to challenge the provision during the Senate floor debate to ensure the Detention Center remains open and detainees are not transferred. The Senate bill also includes provisions that address the problem of sexual assault in the armed forces. Furthermore, the bill authorizes $90 million to continue efforts to locate Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army who has been charged with human rights violations in the Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan. A detailed summary of the markup is available here. The full Senate floor debate of the FY 2014 NDAA has yet to be scheduled.
Last week, House appropriators advanced their FY 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (Milcon-VA) bill out of Committee. The full House floor debate has yet to be scheduled, but the goal is to pass the measure by the end of this month. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark-up its respective Milcon-VA bill this week.
Despite the White House announcement last week confirming that chemical weapons (sarin gas) have been used by the Syrian regime in Syria, the Administration is still debating next steps. The media reported on a U.S. military proposal that would establish a limited buffer zone that could stretch up to 25 miles into Syria from Jordan. A Russian decision to provide its advanced, long-range S-300 air defense weapons to the Syrian regime would make a limited buffer zone more risky to U.S. pilots. The White House is reported to still be considering proposals to arm the rebels. The House FY 2014 NDAA bill (H.R. 1960) also included a provision requiring Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to outline military options for Syria.
After a former U.S. contractor divulged details of the extensive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program, senior officials defended the importance of the PRISM phone and internet surveillance program in detecting and deterring terrorist attacks. In a warning to U.S. contractors, Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said “[w]e will certainly have legislation to limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified data.” However, Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) was skeptical that legislation is necessary.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, June 18: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs will mark up the Milcon-VA spending bill.
- Thursday, June 20: The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the Milcon-VA spending bill.