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Defense & Homeland Security


As your Representative, keeping America safe is my first priority.  I remain committed to ensuring that the federal government provides our military with the necessary resources to accomplish its missions and protect our nation from those who wish to do us harm.

Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act

For fifty-six consecutive years, Congress has passed a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which presidents of both parties have signed into law.  The annual NDAA process is among the most important means by which Congress contributes to the formulation of defense policy, weighs in on key strategic objectives and national security programs, and supports members of our Armed Forces.  It also sets a budgetary framework within which the appropriations processes for the Department of Defense (DOD) and related agencies takes place, reflecting the consensus priorities of Congress and the Administration for the Fiscal Year (FY). 

The NDAA process begins each year with the President’s budget request.  Then, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and their respective subcommittees get to work reviewing this request, holding hearings with senior civilian and military personnel, and negotiating various issues between committee members.  Each chamber’s committee then “marks up” a draft of its own version of the bill and reports a bill out of committee for consideration and passage.  Once the House and Senate pass their versions of the NDAA, a committee comprised of members of the House and Senate from both parties is appointed to negotiate a bicameral version of the bill, called a conference report, which is then considered by each chamber, and, once passed in identical form, is presented to the president for signature.

On May 23, 2017, President Trump submitted his first NDAA proposal to Congress.  It requests a total budget authority of $677.1 billion for national defense activities.  On June 7, 2017, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry introduced H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.  The final House version of NDAA was passed on July 14, 2017.  The Senate’s version of NDAA passed in that chamber on September 18, 2017.  On October 12, 2017, in my capacity as Speaker of the House, I appointed a bipartisan group of 45 of my colleagues in the House to be members of the conference committee to work out differences between each chamber’s NDAA bill and produce a final conference report to pass and send to the President for his signature.  Following negotiations, the final conference committee report was filed on November 9, 2017 as H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.  The House passed this bill in bipartisan fashion on November 11, 2017 by a vote 356 to 70.  The Senate agreed to H.R. 2810 by a voice vote a few days later, and President Trump signed the H.R. 2810 into law on December 12, 2017.   

To ensure that our military is able to confront the growing threats that the United States and our allies face, the FY 2018 NDAA provided authorization for $626.4 billion in spending for base national defense requirements of the DOD and other select national security programs within the Department of Energy (DOE).  It also provided $65.8 billion for the Global War on Terror and Overseas Contingency Operations, for a total of $700 billion in total defense funding, $26.1 billion above the President’s request.  The conference agreement also authorized the $4.0 billion supplemental request received in November for missile defense enhancement to counter North Korean aggression, an additional $1.2 billion for increased troop levels in Afghanistan, and $700 million to repair two U.S. Navy destroyers recently involved in collisions at sea. 

Congress must never forget its promises to our troops, our veterans at home, and the families of all who serve.  Our troops overseas must be provided with the tools they need to successfully complete their missions.  Further, we must also work to ensure our veterans and the families of all service members receive the care and services they need in a timely, convenient, and efficient manner.  Keeping these concerns in mind, the NDAA for FY 2018 gives service members a well-deserved 2.4 percent pay raise—the largest in eight years. The 2018 NDAA also authorizes increases to the size of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, so we can be absolutely prepared for any threat against our citizens at home and abroad. 

To support ongoing military operations, this measure extended authorization of military personnel fighting terrorist threats around the world, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its various affiliates.  The 2018 NDAA also includes $1.8 billion in authorized funds for programs to train and equip the forces seeking to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria and provides $4.9 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to help the Afghan’s develop the capabilities required to secure their nation.  It authorizes $705 million for Israeli missile defense programs undertaken in cooperation with the United States as well as resources to assist our NATO allies and other European partners as they seek to counter and deter Russian aggression, including $350 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

This bill also takes important steps make sure we are equipping our military to carry out its missions safely and maintain military supremacy in the face of unstable globe that poses numerous growing and evolving threats.  It authorizes $10.1 billion for the procurement of 90 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, $2.2 billion for Army ground combat vehicles, and $26.2 billion to fund 14 ships, including $1.5 billion for Littoral Combat Ships.  Given the increased threats we are facing, particularly from North Korea, this bill authorizes $12.3 billion to strengthen our regional and space missile defense systems.  It also authorizes up to 28 additional Ground-Based Interceptors and requires the Secretary of Defense to produce a plan to increase the overall number of interceptors from 44 to 104.  This supports critical modernization of the nuclear triad to ensure we can deter aggressors credibly and reassure allies of our commitments to them and to peace.  As non-traditional domains continue to grow in importance to our security, this bill authorizes $8 billion for cyber operations, and fully funds the Department’s defensive and offensive cyberspace capabilities and strategies, providing $647 million for United States Cyber Command, an increase of 16 percent. 

Building on key achievements of the FY 2017 NDAA, the 2018 NDAA report also includes a comprehensive overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which seeks to and enhance and increase victims’ rights and protections.  This conference report contains numerous provisions aimed at reforming the DOD to improve financial management, accountability, and transparency.  It also reforms procurement, contracting, and acquisition processes to improve the way the Pentagon conducts its business while reducing bureaucracy and red tape and continues reform efforts undertaken in recent years aimed to improve the military’s health care and retirement systems.  The 2018 NDAA would not authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).  Importantly, in the face of the previous Administration’s dangerous attempts to bring some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to American soil, this NDAA also continues the long-standing prohibition on transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees from Cuba to the United States and limits transfers to foreign countries.

Israel

America has no better friend in the Middle East than the nation of Israel.  Not only is Israel the region’s only fully-functioning democracy – with a government based on popular consent and the rule of law – but it is also a valuable ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism.  Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel.  Americans also have a strong interest in Israel achieving a lasting peace with its neighbors — including both the Iranians and the Palestinians.

There are many differing opinions about how the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be resolved.  However, I believe at least one thing is clear: we cannot advocate for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that jeopardizes Israel’s safety or legitimizes terrorism.  Hamas, which is one of the two major Palestinian political factions, is an Islamist terrorist group whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, and deems Osama Bin Laden to be a “martyr.”  I still believe peace is possible, but real peace will also require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples.  Further, the importance of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capability cannot be overstated.  Should Iran become nuclear capable, not only would the United States’ non-proliferation objectives be undermined, but other countries in the region could perceive their national security to be dependent on the attainment of nuclear weapons as well.

In addition to standing against the enemies of Israel, it also critical that we stand up for Israel in arena of international diplomacy.  In keeping with the principles and values that make America an exceptional nation and force for good in the world, we must never be afraid to side with Israel’s sovereignty.  On December 6, 2017, in keeping with his promise to do so, President Trump announced that the United States will recognize Jerusalem, the spiritual and religious capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, as the Capital of Israel.  The city’s status as the religious epicenter of Judaism is a historical fact— not a matter of debate.  Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.  The United States has every right as a sovereign nation to make decisions about where to locate its own embassy.  It also worth noting that this recognition of reality in no way inhibits efforts to reach a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  Only in Jerusalem, Israel, do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam converge at the roots of their faith, and in Jerusalem followers of the three great monotheistic religions safely and freely worship at some of their most holy sites.  I commend President Trump for taking this important action, and for exploring next steps to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  I am fully committing to working with the President and my colleagues in Congress to ensure the successful implementation of this new chapter in America’s relationship with Israel. 

Iran Nuclear Agreement

On July 14, 2015, the Obama Administration announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran to curb the Iranian nuclear program.  A nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and the stated objective behind the JCPOA was to prevent Iran from acquiring the capability of producing a nuclear weapon.  Unfortunately, instead of demonstrating a commitment to preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons, the terms and timeline of the final deal that the Administration reached will briefly delay Iran from reaching this dangerous threshold.  The Obama Administration mishandled these negotiations from the start, and agreeing to this deal will make the Middle East a more dangerous place.  Lifting the sanctions prematurely on Iran was a mistake, allowing the ban related to ballistic missiles to lapse was foolish, and trusting a violent Iranian regime that has been nothing but hostile to America was an error we cannot afford to make.  In short, the deal between the Obama Administration and Iran made America and our allies less secure.  The nuclear agreement struck by the previous administration with Iran is fatally flawed.  Not only did it codify Tehran’s domestic enrichment capability, but once key restraints expire in the coming years, the regime will be free to pursue nuclear weapons under the guise of international legitimacy. 

During the 114th Congress, the House took up several bipartisan measures to reign in President Obama’s violations of law and to reject the deal.  First, the House passed H. Res. 411, finding that the president had not complied with Section Two of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which, among other things, required the Administration to disclose to Congress the existence and content of all parts of the JCPOA, and any related side agreements, including those of which the content is secret.  Not only was Congress prohibited from reviewing these deals as required by law, but the Administration failed even to make Congress aware of the existence of certain side deals.  The second measure introduced in the House was H.R. 3461, to approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015.  This bill was a simple up or down vote on the president’s deal.  As expected, this measure failed, and I joined the large bipartisan majority in the House that rejected the deal by a vote of 162 to 269.  The third and final measure brought before the House was H.R. 3460, to suspend, until January 21, 2017, the authority of the president to waive, suspend, reduce, or provided relief from the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran.  Simply put, this bill would prevent the president from implementing the agreement through the lifting of sanctions.  This bill also passed in bipartisan fashion by a vote of 247 to 186 with my support.

While the efforts to prevent the flawed nuclear agreement from taking effect were ultimately unsuccessful under the last Administration, the work to confront Iran’s ongoing aggression has continued during the 115th Congress.  Mentioned above, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which President Obama himself signed into law, does provide potential opportunities to improve the unacceptable situation maintained by the JCPOA itself.  Specifically, it requires the president to certify every 90 days whether Iran is complying with the terms of JCPOA, that it is not taking any actions – addressed by the deal or otherwise – that could significantly advance its nuclear program, and that continued suspension of sanctions pursuant to the agreement is appropriate and proportionate to Iran’s specific and verified steps to terminate its illicit nuclear program and to the security of the United States.  On October 13, 2017, President Trump announced a new strategy for America’s approach to Iran, including his decision to not certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.  On January 12, 2018, the President announced that he would continue to withhold certification of Iranian compliance, and he laid out his vision for what a better deal with Iran would include.  He also took the opportunity to voice his support for the nonviolent Iranian protesters, who have suffered for decades under a regime more focused on propping up terrorist organizations than addressing the plight of the Iranian people.  I join the President in support of the Iranian people. 

In the background of these actions, Congress continues to work to hold the Iranian regime accountable.  Specifically, the House recently passed four bills aimed toward keeping Iran’s rogue and dangerous behavior in check and punishing their continued abuses.  The first two bills, H.R. 3342, the Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, and H.R. 3329, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act 1698, and the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act place additional sanctions on Hezbollah to stymie its access to weapons and crack down on the despicable practice of using civilians as human shields.  A third piece of legislation, H. Res. 359, urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and to increase pressure on it and its members.  In addition, the House passed H.R. 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bipartisan bill that targets Iran’s development and testing of ballistic missiles.  Tehran has continued to expand its ballistic missile program in spite of the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement, which merely discourages — rather than bans — these activities.  These are just the first of many steps we must take to keep our nation secure from the serious and growing threats posed by Iran.

Iraq & Syria

On October 21, 2011, President Obama announced the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and trainers from Iraq.  Since that time, violence in Iraq has been on the rise due to the vulnerabilities caused by ungoverned territories and political corruption.  After years of disrupted and isolated operations, leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq regrouped into a coalition known as ISIS, which at one point occupied roughly one third of the country.  This group embraces an extremist interpretation of Islamic governance, calls for a caliphate, renounces international norms, and threatens to destabilize the Middle East with its widespread terror.

Unfortunately, the vacuum that was left in the region by President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, appeasement of Iran, and abandonment of Israel has been made worse by the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which opened the door for ISIS and other terrorist groups to spread violence in the wake of the resulting chaos.  President Obama’s failed approach to ISIS was a regrettable aspect of a broader foreign policy that lacked clarity of purpose and that was based on unrealistic wishes instead of clear objectives.  This policy of naivety and ambivalence, which permitted unthinkable levels of violence to rise in the Middle East, left vacuum of leadership that only exacerbated the turmoil and tragedy of the ongoing civil war in Syria.  What began as peaceful citizen protests in 2011 has escalated to a bloody civil war that has taken the lives of over 200,000 people, displaced millions of others, and even led the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, to use chemical weapons on his own people, including women and children.  In the midst of this oppression, ISIS has exploited the chaos of war to murder and enslave whole cities and towns, while promoting violence against the innocent and recruiting new terrorists for its jihad.

On March 14, 2016, during the 114th Congress, in a bipartisan effort to stand for the truth and assert American moral leadership in the world, the House passed two concurrent resolutions that serve to condemn the evil being perpetrated against the innocent in the Middle East.  The first, H.Con.Res 75, expresses the sense of Congress that the atrocities ISIS has committed against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria are war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.  This measure was passed in the House by a vote of 393 to 0.  The second, H.Con.Res.121, condemns the Syrian regime, its allies, and other parties to the conflict in Syria for their gross violations of international law and expresses the sense of Congress that among these violations are war crimes and crimes against humanity.  H.Con.Res.121 also asks the president to direct his Ambassador to the United Nations to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal where these crimes could be addressed.  This measure passed by a vote of 392 to 3.  On March 17, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the administration condemned the actions of ISIS as genocide.  I was encouraged by this development, but we must not be satisfied with simply acknowledging evil.  The refugee crisis and the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism are the consequences of the president's failed policy in the Middle East.

Since taking office, President Trump and his administration have undertaken efforts to chart a new course and bring peace to Syria, Iraq and the broader Middle East.  In response to a barbaric chemical attack perpetrated by the Assad regime that killed nearly one hundred innocent men, women, and children, the President authorized tactical strikes against the Assad regime, making clear that it can no longer carry out atrocities against the Syrian people and count on American inaction.  This action was appropriate and just.  On May 17, 2017, the House took a step to build on the Administration’s efforts and passed H.R. 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which would impose new sanctions on the Assad regime aimed at ending its slaughter and securing peace and security for the Syrian people.  With these new sanctions, we will continue to tighten the screws on the Syrian regime and its most prominent backers, including Iran and Russia.

We must continue to serve as a partner in Iraq and work to support an end to the tragedy and bloodshed in Syria.  The challenges faced by Iraq are numerous and serious.  Though our role has been and will be meaningfully different, resolving the years-long crisis in Syria is no less complex, and it requires strong American leadership.  Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable, and his enablers must be persuaded to change course.  I also firmly believe that ISIS must be defeated and destroyed.  Let there be no mistake, the threats posed by ISIS are real, evolving, and serious and will not go away anytime soon.  Ultimate victory will not be easy and will be hard-won, but we simply cannot ignore these realities.  We can prevail, and we must.  I am encouraged by the progress being made in Iraq and Syria to remove ISIS from its strongholds and roll back the territory it had previously taken by force.  Terrorist activity is surging worldwide, targeting America and its interests specifically.  We must constantly reassess our defenses in order to find and close security gaps so that Islamist militants cannot slip into our country undetected.  As we take the fight to ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist organizations abroad, it is also absolutely imperative to address the unprecedented spike in radicalization here at home.  Efforts to eliminate these threats of extremism remain vital strategic priorities for the United States and the rest of the free world.  They are also crucial to bringing peace to people of the middle-east and North Africa who suffer so immensely at the hands of terrorists.  You can also trust that the safety of American troops in the field continues to be my most important consideration.

Afghanistan

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States made a commitment to defeat those responsible for the horrific attack.  As part of the broader war on terror, the U.S. military has effectively engaged our enemies in Afghanistan and employed counter-insurgency tactics to combat current threats to our national security.  This military strategy necessitates enough troops on the ground to clear and secure areas, and move onto subsequent locations, while maintaining a level of operable safety.  After deploying the requisite number of troops to Afghanistan in 2009, the president had announced the withdrawal of roughly half of the U.S. forces during 2015 without regard to the situation on the ground, leaving only a “residual force” combined of U.S. and NATO trainers and mentors, along with U.S. counterterrorism forces.  The deteriorated situation in Iraq emphasizes the risks of a hasty and deadline-driven withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Attempting to impose artificial timelines on troop levels is a recipe for disaster because it simply telegraphs our strategy to the enemies – who need not abide by and can simply wait out such timelines. 

It is important that we signal to Afghan citizens currently working with our troops that we remain committed to the mission of strengthening the long-term diplomatic, development, and reconstruction efforts in the area.  Shortly after taking office, President Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan.  I applaud this much-needed fresh approach to a conflict that has tended too often to be conducted on the basis of short-term strategies.  Specifically, President Trump’s strategy does away with arbitrary deadlines for troop withdrawals and instead undertakes an approach whereby the United States will demand more from the Afghan government as a condition of continued support, while maintaining America’s efforts to roll back gains made by the Taliban and Al Qaeda and to provide greater stability to a country plagued by terror, crime, and instability.  Additionally, the new strategy will emphasize greater integration of America’s military, diplomatic, and economic development efforts.  In order to prevent neighboring countries from serving as bases of operation for the Taliban and a range of terrorists groups, the President’s strategy also calls for greater accountability on the part of Pakistan.  This is not only critical to the success of our efforts in Afghanistan but also to the stability of Pakistan itself. 

In my own travels to Afghanistan, I have had the privilege of seeing the amazing work that our men and women in uniform are doing.  Their sacrifice and that of those who have given their lives in America’s longest war is incredible and deserving of our gratitude.  We must honor that sacrifice.  Their efforts have not been in vain, and we owe it to them to secure the hard-earned gains of their service.  Continued engagement in Afghanistan is necessary both for the safety of our Armed Forces in the region, and the security of our citizens at home depends on denying Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups a safe haven, such as Afghanistan, to operate from abroad.  Unless our commitment is clear, strong, and reliable, the environment of stability required for political reconciliation will not materialize.  I continue to support providing our troops with the best possible equipment to ensure that they are able to complete their mission safely, effectively, and on time, returning to their families as soon as possible.

Supporting Our Troops

We must not forget that we are a nation at war.  The brave troops who serve our country worldwide have made and continue to make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our nation.  I am grateful for their service, and I am dedicated to ensuring that they are provided with the necessary resources to successfully complete their missions and return to their families as quickly as possible.  Congress must also work to ensure that the families of these courageous individuals are thanked and cared for while their loved ones are away.  As Congress continues to consider further legislation with regard to these issues, please rest assured that I will not lose sight of the effects that our national policy has on the lives of our troops, their families and our national security.

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