Washington, DC—Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today supported final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540, NDAA) following its conference with the House of Representatives. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
Supported unanimously by U.S. Senate conference members serving on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the NDAA includes several provisions championed by Senator Webb relating to Department of Defense (DoD) plans to restructure U.S. military forces in East Asia.
“There is a unique situation that exists at this moment in terms of the vital interests that we have as the key balancing force in Asia,” said Senator Webb, whose long-standing interaction with the region spans more than 40 years. “These recommendations were the product of a great deal of consideration based on many years of thought and study that began with my time in the Pacific as a military planner in the 1970s, and includes two visits to Tokyo, Okinawa, Guam, and Tinian within the past two years. These recommendations are workable, cost-effective, will reduce the burden on the Okinawan people, and will strengthen the American contribution to the security of the region. Most importantly, the recommendations relating to Okinawa will enable our two nations to resolve basing issues there in a more timely way.”
Specifically, the bill requires that DoD direct an independent assessment of U.S. security interests in the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility. The conference report for the bill directs that this assessment include a particular focus on the current posture and plans for U.S. force realignments in Korea, Okinawa, and Guam. The bill also prohibits the authorization of funds for the realignment of Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam until the Commandant of the Marine Corps provides an updated force lay-down. The Secretary of Defense must submit a master plan to Congress detailing construction costs and schedule of all projects necessary to realize the Commandant’s force lay-down and certify to Congress that tangible progress has been made to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
“The passage of this defense authorization bill demonstrates a strong bipartisan commitment to supporting our troops, their families, and critical defense programs,” Senator Webb said. “As chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee, I am proud of the efforts that were made in order to improve the quality of life of the men and women of our all-volunteer force and their families.”
The legislation authorizes a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services and requires hostile fire and imminent danger pay to be prorated according to the number of days spent in a qualifying area rather than payment on a monthly basis. The bill also limits the annual increases of TRICARE Prime enrollment fees to the amount equal to the percentage increase in retired pay beginning October 1, 2012, which is lower than the administration’s original proposal.
During the Senate’s consideration of the bill last month, Senator Webb warned against provisions in the bill that would allow broadly-defined military operations inside the United States and, especially, a provision allowing the military to apprehend and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens inside our borders, warning strongly of the potential for their misuse during a time of emergency. Senator Webb supported several amendments designed to limit any such power, including one that now clarifies that the present legislation gives no new powers to the military to take U.S. citizens into custody. Additional changes were made to the provisions during conference negotiations to further address concerns that had been raised by Senator Webb and others.
“I am very concerned about the protection of our own citizens and our legal residents, and proper safeguards against military action taken inside our country,” said Senator Webb. “There are serious Constitutional issues at play in this matter, and there is a long and uncomfortable history among other countries that have taken this kind of approach. We need to be very clear. We must very narrowly define how the military would be used and–quite frankly–if they should be used at all inside our borders.”
Senator Webb praised a decision by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin to revisit provisions in the bill relating to depot-maintenance laws. Senator Webb and other committee members had raised concerns over the provisions, which are related to how DoD allocates major maintenance projects between the nation’s military facilities and private industry.
“There was no opportunity for members of our committee to consider these far-reaching modifications to existing law,” Senator Webb said. “Given the importance of the Navy’s ship maintenance work to both Norfolk Naval Shipyard and our large ship-repair industrial base in the Hampton Roads region, I welcome Senator Levin’s commitment to consider this issue again next year.”
The FY12 NDAA also mandates a reduction of $26.6 billion from the administration’s defense budget request to terminate troubled, wasteful, or unnecessary programs and activities, as well as to reduce other defense expenditures in light of the nation’s budget-deficit problems.