CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is expected to consider the conference report for H.R. 2647 under a rule on October 8, 2009. H.R. 2647 was introduced on June 2, 2009, by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO). The House passed the bill on June 25, 2009, by a vote of 389-22. The Senate passed the bill, with an amendment, by unanimous consent on July 23, 2009.
The conference report for H.R. 2647 sets a comprehensive annual defense policy and authorizes budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) for Fiscal Year 2010. The legislation authorizes over $550.2 billion for standard operations of the DoD and Department of Energy national security programs, as well as $130 billion for funding ongoing military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The funding level in this bill is slightly more than the President's request and 4 percent over the current level. However, this increase also reflects certain programs once funded in the supplemental now being included in the base budget. A summary of the major provisions in the conference report is below:
Guantanamo Bay: The conference report would prohibit the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States and would require the President to provide a comprehensive detainee plan before transferring a detainee into the U.S. for detention or prosecution.
Hate Crimes: The conference report includes a provision which increases federal authority for criminal investigations that are thought to be motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. This hate crimes legislation is broad and not limited to military settings. Please click here to read a detailed Conference Policy Brief on this topic.
Iraq Policy: The conference report provides authority to provide defense equipment to the Iraqi Security Forces and requires the Pentagon to report on the risk levels associated with the President's plan to drawdown U.S. forces in Iraq.
Iran Policy: The legisaltion requires an annual report on the military power of Iran, which will assess Iran's strategy and disclose Iran's conventional and irregular capability, including Iran's support of terrorist organizations.
North Korea Policy: The conference report does not authorize funds for the disablement and disarmament of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. North Korea has withdrawn from the Six Party talks and has shown a lack of progress on denuclearization.
Troop Levels: The conference report authorizes increased active duty troop levels for Fiscal Year 2010. Specifically, the legislation authorizes 30,000 additional Army troops, 8,100 more Marines, 14,650 more Air Force personnel, and 2,477 additional Navy sailors.
Military Pay and Benefits: The legislation provides an average 3.4 percent pay increase for military personnel in Fiscal Year 2010. This is 0.5 percent more than the President's request of 2.9 percent. The legislation would also increase from $500 to $1,100 the maximum monthly supplemental subsistence allowance paid to low-income service members with spouses, in an effort to ensure that military members do not require food stamps. For active duty service members with catastrophic injuries or illnesses, a special compensation of up to $2,900 per month would be established. These funds are intended to assist with daily living costs.
Afghanistan/Pakistan: The bill provides $7.4 billion to train and equip the Afghan national security forces and authorizes $1.3 billion for the Commanders Emergency Response Program, which would allow General McChrystal to implement counterinsurgency operations. Finally, the agreement reauthorizes DoD contingency construction authority to build up to $500 million worth of facilities necessary for the war in Afghanistan.
Missile Defense: The conference report funds missile defense near the President's budget request of $9.3 billion-a cut of $1.2 billion from last year. This total does include an increase of $20 million for the sustainment of the Ground-Based Interceptor industrial base and $23 million for additional Aegis SM-3 interceptors. The legislation includes a sense of Congress that the successor treaty to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty should not include limitations on missile defense. The Director of National Intelligence would be required to report on the nuclear aspirations and programs of various countries. Finally, the conference report permanently extends a prohibition on the deployment of long-range missile defense interceptors in Europe, pending a DoD certification that they are operationally effective.
National Guard and Reserves: The legislation authorizes $6.9 billion for new equipment for National Guard and reserve units, an increase of $600 million over the President's request. The conference report would extend health care for members of the reserve components to 180 days prior to a period of active duty (as opposed to 90 days previously).
Force Protection Equipment: The agreement provides $6.7 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles-$1.2 billion above the request to fully fund the military's requirement for the all-terrain versions now deployed in Afghanistan. The conference report provides $4.3 billion for up-armored Humvees and medium- and heavy-tactical vehicles, as well as $1.3 billion to upgrade Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Aircraft: The conference report adheres to the Administration's request to end the F-22 Raptor fighter program. The House-passed bill included a $369 million down payment to buy 12 F-22s next year. The agreement provides authority for the Secretary of the Navy to enter into a multi-year procurement contract for F-18s. The legislation also authorizes funding for 30 F-35 aircraft.
Ships: The legislation authorizes the Navy to enter into procurement contract for 10 Littoral Combat Ships over five years, authorizes funding for the tenth LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious ship, authorizes funding for the third and final DDG-1000, and authorizes full funding for two T-AKE class ships.
Future Combat System: The conference report fully funds $2.45 billion for the communications network and spin out equipment sets of the terminated Future Combat System program, which are expected to continue as separate programs in Fiscal Year 2010.
Military Construction: The legislation provides over $23 billion for service-wide military construction projects for Fiscal Year 2010.
Military Commissions: The conference report amends the 2006 Military Commissions Act to reflect military commission case law, enabling the Administration to prosecute terrorists for war violations free of constitutional challenges and strengthen the protection of classified information.
National Defense Panel: The agreement would allow eight Congressional appointees to sit on the independent panel which reviews the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The panel would be required to provide their interim report to Congress when the 2009 QDR is released.
Acquisition Policy: The conference report requires the Secretary to issue guidance on life-cycle management and the implementation of product support strategies for major weapons systems. Each major weapons system would be supported by a program support manager that is employed by DoD or is a member of the armed services.
Base Closure: The conference report funds the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) account at $7.4 billion.
Joint IED Defeat Organization: The legislation authorizes $2.1 billion (matching the President's request) for the Joint IED Defeat Organization which coordinates all DoD activities for combating Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Environmental Cleanup: The conference report authorizes $5.5 billion for Defense Environment Cleanup, matching the President's budget request. It also authorizes $98 million for defense nuclear waste disposal.
Although H.R. 2647 received strong Republican support on final passage in the House, Senate and House GOP Members withheld their signatures from the conference report, in opposition to the inclusion of the hate crimes language.
Members may have the following concerns with this conference report:
Hate Crimes: The conference report includes a provision which increases federal authority for criminal investigations that are thought to be motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. FBI statistics show that the incidence of hate crimes has actually declined over the last ten years. In fact, only 9 of approximately 17,000 (0.05 percent) homicides in the nation involved so-called hate crimes. There is zero evidence that States are not fully prosecuting violent crimes involving hate.
Many Members believe that every potential victim deserves protection-and that their sexual identity should not grant them either greater (or lesser) protection over another potential victim. Further, many Members may believe that prosecuting crimes based on an offender's perceived intent is a dangerous precedent and that all violent crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Sexual orientation and disability are not defined under the legislation. Some Members may feel that as these terms are used in legislation that expands the federal criminal code, they necessitate precise definitions. Members may thus be concerned that in future criminal proceedings, sexual orientation will be interpreted however a judge wants.
Hate crimes establish a system where victims are treated differently based on the "actual or perceived" class or group with which they identify. It will be left to law enforcement agencies to determine whether the offender was motivated by the victim's "perceived" sexual orientation, race, etc. Many Members may feel that expecting the government to determine the feelings and motives of an individual is dangerous.
The proposed categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in this legislation create special classes of victims based solely upon behaviors of certain groups of people. Furthermore, the bill equates these protected classes with those of race, color, religion and national origin-a premise that many civil rights leaders may not feel is appropriate.
Members may also have the following concerns with including hate crimes language in defense legislation. Specifically, the provision (1) raises the possibility that religious leaders or members of religious groups could be prosecuted criminally based on their speech or other protected activities; (2) creates unequal treatment of victims by treating crimes against protected groups more seriously than non-protected groups; (3) encroaches on jurisdiction traditionally reserved to the States; and (4) violates the 14th Amendment the U.S. Constitution which affords equal protection to every citizen under the law.
Missile Defense: The conference report includes a $1.2 billion funding cut for missile defense. At markup in the House, Democrats defeated a Republican amendment which would have restored that funding. In recent days, Iran has demonstrated a capability and an intent to pursue missile and nuclear weapons programs. Additionally, in September 2009, the Obama Administration announced its decision to scrap a missile-defense agreement the Bush Administration negotiated with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Guantanamo: This conference report does not include a GOP measure offered at Committee markup which would have required the approval of State governors and legislatures before transferring any Guantanamo detainees into their States.
Wage Requirements in Guam: The conference report specifies that wage rates paid for military construction projects carried out on Guam must meet U.S. federal standards and directs the Department of Labor to set a minimum wage standard for construction workers on Guam. Some Members may be concerned that this provision will significantly raise the cost of projects on Guam where the local wage rates are lower than in the U.S.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for this conference report, but it authorizes $680.2 billion.