06.09.16

Senator Leahy Speaks In Support Of The Reed Amendment To The Defense Authorization Bill, Providing An Additional $18 Billion In Non-Defense Spending, To Match Additional $18 Billion In Defense Spending Under The McCain Amendment

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Reed Second Degree Amendment to the McCain Amendment To the National Defense Authorization Act

June 8, 2016

Mr. President, Senator McCain, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, believes that $602 billion is not enough for the Department of Defense.

Rather than reject unnecessary spending for weapons and other programs the Pentagon says it does not want or need, the Senator from Arizona not only says we should fund them, he also proposes to spend another $18 billion on defense.

I will leave it to others to defend or contest the assumptions on which Senator McCain’s amendment is based. But I do want to speak briefly in support of the second degree amendment offered by the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Reed of Rhode Island.

Because if there is one thing we have learned over and over, it is that protecting U.S. national security is not only about a strong military that can respond when all other options fail.

It is also about homeland security, including border control and maintaining critical infrastructure.

It is about law enforcement within the United States.

It is about cyber security.

It is about educating the next generation of Americans and creating jobs that lead to advancements in science and technology.

And it is about strengthening the capabilities of foreign partners and acting as a leader in international diplomatic efforts to prevent and respond to threats to global security.

The fiscal year 2017 budget allocation for the Department of State and foreign operations is $591 million below fiscal year 2016. That, coupled with the fact that the President’s budget underfunds programs for refugees and other victims of disasters by $1 billion, presents us with an untenable budgetary situation.

The amendment offered by the Senator from Rhode Island would help to alleviate this shortfall. While there are many foreign crises, Senator Reed’s amendment focuses on one area where the situation is particularly dire.

It authorizes $1.9 billion to support the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development to implement their portions of the Integrated Campaign Plan to Counter ISIL.

The funds would also support embassy security, as well as additional assistance for Israel, and for Jordan and Lebanon which have been severely impacted by the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

This is directly related to U.S. security interests in the Middle East at a time when the stability of the entire region is under threat.

In a June 2 piece in Time Magazine, Retired General James Conway, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Retired Admiral James M. Loy, former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, wrote that

“the security challenges our nation faces today are not the same as when we began our service during the Cold War. . .Twenty-first century problems require fine scalpels, and the military is a broad sword. We can start by better resourcing and strengthening our own institutions. The State Department, the Peace Corps and USAID are the front lines of keeping our country safe, but they are underfunded and undermanned.”

I ask unanimous consent that the article be printed in the Record following my remarks.

Mr. President, we should also remember that the Balanced Budget Act is based on parity. The spending caps we put in place have consequences for both the defense and non–defense sides of the ledger. Yet the Senator from Arizona’s one dimensional approach ignores this bipartisan compromise.

His amendment ignores the essential roles that development and diplomacy play in national security. It ignores the many domestic components to a strong defense, like a well-trained workforce and reliable infrastructure. Like energy independence. Like health systems that have the resources to protect the public from infectious diseases, contaminated drinking water, and unsafe food.

If you ask the American people whether these investments are as important as more fighter planes and warships, they would emphatically answer “yes”. And that is why the very name of the Balanced Budget Act includes the word “balanced”.

The Amendment of the Senator from Rhode Island should be passed overwhelmingly.

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