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(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke today on the Senate floor about the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 (S.1867), which includes several measures authored or supported by Shaheen. The annual defense bill authorizes all Department of Defense programs for the coming fiscal year, and addresses major defense policy issues. 

Video of Shaheen’s speech can be viewed here:

Senator Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Mr. President, I rise today in support of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  This critical piece of legislation will strengthen our national security, provide for our troops and their families, and improve oversight of American taxpayer dollars.

Over the last half-century, the Senate has successfully passed a defense authorization bill – without fail – every year.  This strong tradition of bipartisanship continues today under the joint leadership of Senators Levin and McCain.  As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member as well as the majority and minority staff for their dedicated and tireless effort as we worked to bring this important legislation to the floor. 

Throughout this yearly process, our committee takes on extremely difficult and contentious security issues, and, at times, we have our differences.  However, we take on these disagreements in a respectful and open-minded fashion driven by a strong commitment to cooperation and compromise. 

Bipartisanship has never been easy, but it works, as the Armed Services Committee has proven year in and year out.  I hope that all of our committees can work in this type of cooperative fashion – especially at a time of difficult budget constraints.

No department of the federal government is immune from the severe fiscal challenges facing our nation, and that includes our Department of Defense.  We are cutting $27 billion from the President’s budget request in this bill – nearly $43 billion from last year’s authorization.  We need to find ways to maximize our investments in defense by aggressively eliminating unneeded and underperforming programs, and we need to streamline our business practices and invest strategically in future technologies. 

The bill before us helps ensure that our troops – especially the 96,000 serving in Afghanistan – as well as their families continue to receive the care and support they deserve.  It provides hard earned pay raises for all uniformed military personnel, funding for critical equipment, and training required for our men and women to succeed on the battlefield.

The Defense Authorization bill before us makes important investments in defense science and technology.  Mr. President, we need to do more to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, who will be so vital to maintaining our nation’s superior technological military edge.  The current bill makes a small down-payment on this important effort, and I will continue to fight for more investment as we move forward.   

The bill also includes a number of provisions that will enable the Defense Department to lead in the creation of a more secure energy future for our military and for our country.  As the single largest consumer of energy in the world today, the U.S. military has taken some initial steps on energy efficiency, energy mitigation, and the use of renewable and clean energy alternatives; but, we still have a long way to go.  I look forward to continue working with the Department of Defense to take advantage of more energy savings opportunities in the future.

This year’s defense authorization bill also includes significant resources to fight nontraditional threats, including the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and materials around the globe and the growing challenge posed by cyber warfare.

In addition, I am pleased that a number of provisions I have been working on are currently included in the bill. 

We are extending the Small Business Innovation Research program for the next eight years, which will keep our defense manufacturing base and our small business innovators strong and competitive.  This was a provision I worked hard to include in the underlying bill.  I’m pleased that the Senate has chosen to build on that provision and approve a bipartisan extension to all federal agencies.  I want to thank Senators Landrieu and Snowe for their leadership on the Small Business committee and for working with me on this important effort.  

The bill also includes a version of my National Guard Citizen Soldier Support Act, which will go far in providing our National Guard members with the unique services and support they need when they return home from the fight. 

We also have a Navy shipyard modernization provision introduced by me and Senators Collins, Snowe, and Ayotte, as well as a $400 million cut to an unnecessary and underperforming weapons program, that I’ve worked closely with Senators McCain and Begich to include.  In addition, I was pleased to cosponsor Senator Leahy’s National Guard Empowerment Act, which gives a stronger voice to our 450,000 citizen soldiers of our National Guard.     

Though we have a good bill before us, I believe it could be better, and I have introduced a number of additional amendments, two of which are designed to provide the nearly 214,000 women serving in our armed forces with reproductive health care they are denied under current law.  I will continue to work closely with the Chairman and Ranking Members to address these important concerns. 

In addition, I have also worked closely with Senators Collins and Casey on an amendment to address unsecured and looted stockpiles of tens of thousands of shoulder-fired missiles in Libya.  If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, they pose a serious threat to civil aviation worldwide and our deployed forces abroad.  I want to thank the committee for working with us to include this important provision.

I would also like to briefly address some of the concerns raised with respect to the detainee provisions in this bill.  The underlying legislation, which I supported, is an attempt to provide a statutory basis for dealing with detained members of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates.  In committee, we made some difficult choices on this extremely complex issue in order to strike a bipartisan agreement to both protect our values and our security.

I understand the concerns raised on both sides.  As a general principle, I believe our national security officials should have the flexibility needed to deal with a constantly evolving threat. But I also believe that clear, transparent rules of procedure are a bedrock legal principle of our Constitutional system.  

I believe the military detention language in this bill includes a significant amount of flexibility for the Executive Branch, including a national security waiver and broad authorities on implementation. Senator Udall’s amendment, while well intentioned, would have stripped the bill of this bipartisan compromise language, which I did not believe would have helped achieve the goals of either side. 

Though I support the goals of the Chairman and Ranking Members’ underlying legislation, I also believe we can improve those provisions, and I will support Senator Feinstein’s amendment to restrict required military custody to only those terrorist suspects captured abroad.

I hope that despite the disagreements, we will continue to chart a bipartisan path forward with respect to these detainee provisions in the years ahead. We need to give our national security officials at home and abroad a clearly defined – yet flexible – system which protects our Constitutional rights and our nation’s security.  

In conclusion, I believe the 2012 Defense Authorization bill before us will strengthen our national security, maintain our military power, keep our defense businesses competitive, help cancel and roll back wasteful spending and support the men and women that defend our nation every day.  I hope the full Senate will quickly pass this important piece of legislation and get it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.