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National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012

Representative Howard McKeon, who serves as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, on April 14, 2011.  This bill authorizes the appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.  After being passed by the House on May 26, 2011, it was amended and passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent.  After resolving differences between the two versions of the bill, it was passed in the House on December 14, 2011, by a vote of 283 – 136, followed by passage in the Senate on December 15, 2011, by a vote of 86 – 13.  I voted in favor of final passage.

There have been some concerns over provisions in this bill relating to the detention of Al Qaeda terrorists.  Some have argued that these provisions do not provide adequate protection for Americans and would allow the President to detain American citizens within the United States for an indefinite amount of time if he deems them a “terrorist.”  This is not the case.  This bill affirms the military’s ability to lawfully detain individuals who are engaged in armed conflict with the United States and establishes new requirements for military custody in cases where foreign terrorists are caught in a plot to attack the United States. 

The United States has detained members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated group under both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and the courts have affirmed the ability to do so under the U.S. Constitution.  This authority, however, was never explicitly stated in law, and has instead been inferred from the Authorization to Use Military Force.  The NDAA simply states this authority in statute under the same terms as recognized by the courts.  I believe Congress must support policies that protect Americans from terrorist organizations while still preserving our individual rights and liberties under the Constitution.  This legislation accomplishes both.

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 mission. 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.