Ranking Member Adam Smith Statement: Fighting for Progressive Values in the National Defense Authorization Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the completion of negotiations on the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:
“Democrats fought hard and won multiple progressive outcomes in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We do not control Congress, and we cannot get everything we want, but I am pleased that by being persistent we succeeded on many important issues.
“Foremost, Democrats defeated multiple provisions that would have been extremely harmful to the environment. Although environmental riders have no place in a defense bill, Republicans have again attempted to undermine the Endangered Species Act, roll back regulations on mining nationwide, and allow the indefinite taking of certain public lands for defense purposes. I am pleased that Democrats succeeded in keeping all of these dangerous riders out of the bill. We also fought and significantly reduced a proposed doubling of an exception to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In addition, Democrats won inclusion of provisions to help local military communities address climate change related sea level rise, require DOD installations to establish energy and climate resiliency plans, and require plans for energy and conservation policy.
“Democrats made significant strides to advance human rights, the promotion of peace, protection of vulnerable populations abroad, and the rule of law in conflict. Thanks to Democrats, the FY 2019 NDAA prohibits in-flight refueling to Saudi Arabia or Saudi-led coalition non-United States aircraft conducting missions in Yemen, unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen. The legislation furthermore requires a review of whether the U.S. Armed Forces or its partners have violated laws or policies while conducting operations in Yemen.
“The bill also includes major provisions on the reporting of civilian casualties in connection with U.S. military operations. The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and coordinate policy for civilian casualties connected with U.S. military operations. The Secretary is also accountable for improving means accessible to the public by which civilian casualties can be reported to the Department. Additionally, we clarify and improve upon requirements for annual reporting of civilian casualties and strengthen Congressional oversight of sensitive military operations.
“Transparency is further enhanced by requiring the President to make the total number of deployed members of the Armed Forces publicly available. It also requires the Secretary of State to report on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria. The Defense Department is also required to report on transitional justice in Syria and to review the policy framework for military activity like the ongoing operations in Niger.
“Supporting service members and their families, HASC Democrats secured the inclusion of a substantial array of provisions to promote safety and combat domestic violence and sexual harassment among military personnel. Specifically, the FY 2019 NDAA establishes domestic violence as a separate article under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Democrats were able to remove a provision that would have made it easier for defense contractors to transfer machine guns. The bill closes a gun loophole that that allowed Devin Kelley, who was convicted of domestic violence, to purchase the gun he used in a 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church. The NDAA also requires the creation of an independent National Commission on Military Aviation Safety that I proposed in order to investigate aviation accidents.
“This bill continues the absolutely critical work of pushing back against President Putin’s ongoing campaign to undermine U.S. alliances, partnerships, and democratic values around the world. It is essential that Congress do everything it can to try to hold together our commitments in the face of President Trump’s attacks on those institutions. Building on last year’s package of Russia legislation that I introduced in the NDAA, this bill includes the largest investment to date for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI). It restates of our commitment to NATO and our partners. It extends the prohibition on military cooperation with Russia. It declares that Russia violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It strengthens the prohibition on funding for activities that would recognize the sovereignty of Russia over Crimea. It requires a whole-of-government response to malign foreign influence operations and campaigns, it improve our cyber and counter-influence infrastructure, and a good deal more.
“I am pleased that this bill provides for our men and women in uniform and their families. There are many things to be concerned about in this bill, but the outcomes in these areas are positive.”