Summary of House Floor Activity re the NDAA
The bill passed Friday with 220 votes with the entirety of the Republican caucus voting no along with 8 Democratic members of the House. During consideration of the bill hundreds of amendments were considered but with the following of interest to our folks.
One amendment would have resurrected a study of icbm alternatives including a comparison between the GBSD and Minuteman 3 SLEP, ( originally deleted from the HASC mark) and another would have required that any future icbm program be cost effective and characterized by sufficient competition. The first amendment was defeated 264-164 and the second amendment was withdrawn.
Supporters of these amendments believe cuts in nuclear forces are necessary for at least two reasons: (1) current costs of nuclear modernization are excessive; and (2) cuts are necessary to force the administration to adopt new arms control policies including the extension of the 2010 new start treaty. Both rationales are seriously wanting.
For example, the cuts in the GBSD and low yield nuclear D-5 are less than $150 million. The cut in the GBSD program delays the contract award for at least a year and will in all likelihood add costs to the Minuteman sustainment effort because of such a delay. In addition any cost savings in delaying the GBSD program would occur at the end of the procurement cycle around 2035, hardly helpful to today’s budget deficits.
As for extending the new start treaty, such an extension makes sense only if the Russians are complying with the treaty and all its strategic nuclear forces come under the treaties warhead ceilings, and such an agreement has at least the verification and compliance measures adopted in the original Start I treaty of 1991. And any serious discussion of arms control must take into account the complete lack of transparency in the Chinese nuclear forces, as well as the theater and short range nuclear forces of both Russia and China that are now not subject to any restrictions whatsoever.
In conclusion, the Senate passed defense bill contains the prudent nuclear force modernization that needs to be sustained. As ranking member Thornberry noted in his closing remarks, playing politics with nuclear deterrent strategies serves no purpose other than to delay the needed modernization while confusing the American people as to what is required to maintain our security. Detente in the 1970s underfunded our critical nuclear requirements, a mistake repeated after the end of the Cold War when it was assumed the “end of history” made a robust nuclear deterrent unnecessary.
With the rise of a very aggressive heavily nuclear armed Russia and a China now becoming a major nuclear power, this is the wrong time to repeat for the third time the mistake of neglecting nuclear deterrence. The nuclear posture reviews of the current and past three administrations rhetorically understood this point. It is now time to match the right rhetoric and strategy with the right forces with which to carry out our nation’s nuclear policies.
In summarizing the now finished HAC and HASC Bills, there is both good news but also bad news. The B-21 was fully supported but 198 house members voted to kill the cruise missile warhead although only a hundred voted to kill the cruise missile itself.
The D-5/2 was cut by over $300 million which would result in the Columbia class submarine being without effective and modernized operational missiles some time in the 2040 period near the end of the Columbia acquisition.
As for the GBSD, an amendment to again study alternatives was soundly defeated but the cut of $108 million remained although an additional amendment to cut EMD funding was withdrawn from floor consideration.
The House majority also appears to support no first use, against low yield D5 warheads, and support extension of the New Start treaty, all of which fail to challenge Russian nuclear strategy and deployments that put USA security at risk.
The SAP by the administration raised the GBSD budget cuts and D-5 low yield prohibitions as the basis for a veto recommendation, which makes these important conference issues. With the current talks between treasury and the House speaker, prospects for a budget deal are improving and an alternative deal to go with a CR at this year’s defense spending level is now off the table.
Best Peter Huessy