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Dissenting View of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003

May 3, 2002

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, H.R. 4546, represents the largest real increase to defense spending since 1966. This bill contains over $40 billion more spending than last year's defense authorization, which too was egregiously large. H.R. 4546 provides for over $383 billion in spending for the Department of Defense and the weapons programs of the Department of Energy. Unfortunately this new spending comes at the expense of many valuable and effective government programs. As the Bush Administration's tax cut enacted last year has reduced the ability of the federal government to fully fund many important programs, the massive increase in defense spending is accompanied by cuts to programs for job training, drug elimination in public housing, prescription drug benefits, conservation spending, and much more. Such one-sided spending indicates a misdirected view of our nation's true national security reflecting a belief that relies on warfighting capabilities and which neglects the domestic issues and quality of life that are also essential to a secure nation.

In addition to the singular focus of our national security attention, there are problems within the Pentagon that raise questions about such immense spending. On September 10, 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stated that "[a]ccording to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." Such a lack of financial accountability not only undermines the integrity of the Pentagon, it causes severe inefficiencies that cause further financial loss, and undoubtedly leads to wasteful spending. If there were ever to be activities obscured from the public's eye, projects pursued without authorization, or other questionable action or spending, how could it ever be discovered when the level of unaccounted transactions is so high? In any other arena, either private sector or public, financial accountability would be insured prior to increasing expenditures, not the opposite.

Yet the basis for such a large increase in spending is wholly unjustified. The events of September 11, 2001 were a tragedy to the entire nation. However, the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were not prompted by any failure of the United States military, but instead were the result of a breakdown in our intelligence community. In fact, just this week Yahoo News reported that CIA Deputy Director of Operation James Pavitt "dismissed charges the CIA was caught unaware by September 11 suicide attacks in the United States" and that "[t]he CIA knew the network led by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden was planning a major strike."

Similarly, a Washington Post article dated May 3, 2002 stated "[t]wo months before the suicide hijackings, an FBI agent in Arizona alerted Washington headquarters that several Middle Easterners were training at a U.S. aviation school and recommended contacting other schools nationwide," and further that "[l]aw enforcement officials said in retrospect the FBI believes it should have accelerated the suggested check of U.S. flight schools." The intelligence community has received substantial increases in resources in order to address these shortcomings. As there was no apparent defense shortcoming, it appears that the increases contained in the defense authorization serve to increase the armed forces' ability to wage war in foreign nations, replace regimes such as Iraq, and accelerate the expansion of war on a worldwide scale.

The increased defense authorization also permits prodigal, unneeded, and archaic projects and weapons systems to proceed. One such weapons system is the Crusader, an artillery system originally intended to defeat Soviet tanks on a large battlefield. Though it is widely assumed that the U.S. will not confront such a battle environment, the Army has continued its drive to develop and procure this weapon. Logistically, this artillery system has been found to be difficult to transport, and at 40 tons for each the artillery system and the adjoining resupply vehicle, the Crusader would be difficult to adhere to the Army's evolving mobility goals. In considering the continued pursuit of the Crusader, it is important to note that the prime contractor for this weapon system, United Defense, is owned by the Carlyle Group, which in turn is chaired by Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, and which also employs former President George H.W. Bush.

Nonetheless, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has been reported to be planning to cut this expensive and unnecessary weapon, thus saving the $475 million earmarked for the Crusader to be used for other expenditures. I would welcome such an announcement. However, contrary to reports, this defense authorization leads me to believe that the Crusader program will survive. Included in H.R. 4546 is language that "directs that there be no change to the Crusader development schedule, funding or procurement requirements, to include termination." It is unfortunate that, even when the Pentagon seeks to shelve needless and wasteful programs, this defense authorization and the defense industry are capable of keeping the Crusader and other questionable projects alive.

Furthermore, this defense authorization charts the course toward dangerous waters in terms of our nation's nuclear weapons policy, the development of missile defense, and environmental stewardship.

Section 1021 of the defense authorization bill details the proposed nuclear policy of the United States, which aptly calls for sharp reductions in the nation's nuclear weapons stock. However, the value of those reductions is lost on the fact that the policy also calls for the U.S. to "maintain a responsive force of non-deployed nuclear weapons for potential contingencies." It is difficult to conceive a contingency where the 1,700 nuclear weapons to which our stock would be reduced would be insufficient. The maintenance of such a ready reserve also provokes international concern and would incur significant future costs to the U.S. in terms of maintenance, stockpile stewardship and security. Sec. 1021 also encourages the development of new nuclear weapons for the purpose of defeating hardened and deeply buried targets. This language is an affront to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that the U.S. has ratified. This provocative section also neglects the physical science that nuclear weapons would not serve to defeat such buried targets, would have significant radioactive fallouts, and would hinder U.S. personnel from conducting damage assessments. It was unfortunate that the Committee did not pass an amendment offered by Representatives Ellen Tauscher and Tom Allen that would have improved and removed this dangerous language.

Additionally, Section 1021 urges the Administration to develop a plan to be able to resume underground nuclear testing within one year of a decision to conduct such tests. Underground nuclear tests have not been conducted in the U.S. since September 1992, and when they have been conducted in other nations, the U.S. has responded with strong rebukes and sanctions. The development of such a resumption plan is unnecessary, is internationally inflammatory, and is likely not the desire of a majority of Americans. In sum, Section 1021 sets forth a nuclear weapons policy that is unlikely to insure greater safety for Americans and could result in encouraging other nations to further their own nuclear weapons programs.

With regard to missile defense, H.R. 4546 continues the road to development of this dangerous and unreliable system. This authorization provides $7.8 billion for missile defense, following on the nearly $8 billion that was authorized for missile defense last year. Not only is this an unusually high amount of money to be devoting to a weapon system of questionable reliability, the need for the missile shield being sought is not apparent. The CIA's own National Intelligence Estimate states that North Korea has the greatest and soonest likelihood of attacking the US with a missile, but that they will be unable to do so before 2015; the same NIE states that attacks are much more likely using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) via other untraditional routes such as trucks, ships, or airplanes.

Rather than relying on a missile defense system, which may well lead America to a false sense of security, missile defense should be re-shelved, as it was in 1976. Cooperative international arms control and disarmament agreements will be far more effective in advancing peace and security in the years ahead and will cost far less than a Star Wars type missile shield.

Evidently, the current prevailing concept for missile defense, known as hit-to-kill, which had garnered the support of many in this Committee, is not as reliable as had been thought. It was reported a few weeks ago that the Secretary of Defense had given approval to proceed with the study of nuclear-tipped missile defense. Despite the fact that this concept had already been pursued in the 1960s and 1970s and correctly cancelled, nuclear-tipped missile defense has apparently risen from the dead. An amendment offered by Representative John Spratt would have prohibited the development of such a missile defense concept. However, the Committee unfortunately defeated this amendment. While debate in opposition to the amendment noted the need to provide the Pentagon as much latitude in pursuing missile defense options, the fact that the atmospheric nuclear explosion would cause enormously destructive electro-magnetic pulses to wreak havoc on both domestic and space-based electronics, not to mention the horrible human health impacts from the ensuing radiological fallout, were evidently ignored by a majority of the Committee. Nuclear tipped missile defense was pursued once, and was then cast aside when financial and other costs were observed to be greater than the benefits. The Committee should have considered this history when voting on the amendment, and I find it inevitable that nuclear-tipped missile defense will again find a similar fate.

For a multitude of reasons, the environmental provisions of this bill are inappropriate and disappointing. The Readiness Subcommittee included in their mark, language that will carve out special exemptions so that the Department of Defense will not have to adhere to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). First, when the Subcommittee conducted hearings on these issues, only Administration officials were permitted to testify, and local and state officials and environmental organizations were not provided similar opportunities to share their viewpoints. With such contentious, wide-ranging, and important issues under consideration, these stakeholders should have been given an opportunity to be heard. Second, with regard to the Endangered Species Act, a provision already exists within the law that would permit the Secretary of Defense to request a waiver from compliance with the ESA for purposes of national security. The Defense Department has never made use of this provision, and with such an avenue for relief currently available, there is no reason that the law should be amended.

Finally, parliamentary rules of Congress provide for sequential referral to multiple committees for issues that span the jurisdiction of more than one committee for good reason. In this case, the Resources Committee has jurisdiction over these important environmental laws, and the opportunity for this committee to conduct hearings on these law changes should not have been circumvented.

In addition to the exemptions of these two important wildlife protection laws, Title XIV of the Chairman's mark is a very disappointing foray of the Armed Services Committee into the arena of public lands management. The Committee never conducted hearings on this specific provision. This section releases hundreds of thousands of acres from Wilderness Study Areas designation, permits unprecedented entry and activity in wilderness areas, cedes management authority of public lands to the Secretary of the Air Force and again denies the appropriate jurisdictional oversight of the Resources Committee. If the intent of Title XIV was to protect public land and insure emergency access for the military, there is undoubtedly a more democratic and comprehensive approach that could have been taken.

In an issue that was addressed by an amendment offered, and then withdrawn, by Representative Lindsey Graham, the Department of Energy has dangerously discarded the idea of immobilizing plutonium obtained through the dismantling of Russian and American nuclear weapons. The pursuit of the mixed-oxide (MOX) alternative, whereby the excess plutonium is not encased in a non-reactive, immobile matrix, but instead is processed into a fuel that energy companies can use in nuclear power generation is unwise. The safer and more sensible approach to this issue would have been for the DOE and the Savannah River Site to pursue the immobilization alternative, maintain a set of alternatives in case any proposed solution proves technically unfeasible, and not to provide a subsidy to the nuclear industry in the form of this MOX fuel.

As was the case with last year's authorization consideration, Representative Loretta Sanchez offered an amendment to permit service women and female military dependents to obtain privately funded abortions in overseas military hospitals. In this amendment medical practitioners in these hospitals who choose not to conduct such procedures would not have been required to conduct them. Though the Supreme Court has affirmed a woman's right to obtain an abortion, the Committee sees fit to maintain its own discretion of this constitutional right, and did not approve of this amendment. It is unfortunate that service women and female dependents must now choose between seeking abortions that can be unsafe or illegal in foreign nations, or otherwise forfeit their rights to privacy by the necessity of informing superior officers when seeking military transport to a location suitable for abortion procedures.

Though it deeply troubles me that one of the first acts of our President after declaring this War On Terrorism was to sign an Executive Order denying promised high deployment overtime pay to our service men and women, the overall mark that was reported from the Personnel Subcommittee is commendable. The bill provides for a 4.1 percent across-the-board pay raise that aptly recognizes the hard work and dedication of our nation's service personnel. This pay raise will also serve to aid in the recruitment and retention of personnel, as the increase is consistently above private sector pay increases. Additionally, the Personnel mark provides for higher raises for certain specialties and for non-commissioned officers, thereby improving force strength in essential fields and compensating many of tomorrow's leaders. Though I have dissented in this Act, I greatly respect the individual members of our armed services for their service and sacrifice in the name of our nation.

Additionally, the Personnel Subcommittee included language that will permit the payment of concurrent receipt for some retired military personnel who are also disabled veterans. For too long disabled veterans have been forced to choose between their retirement pay and their well-deserved disability benefits. Though H.R. 4546 provides only for immediate concurrent receipt to veterans who are rated 60 percent disabled or greater, I believe that the Committee has made an improvement from the previous ban on concurrent receipt and I hope that the program will continue to be expanded to provide concurrent receipt to all retired military personnel who are also disabled veterans. I doubt anyone would question that they have earned it.


Cynthia McKinney
Member of Congress


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