WASHINGTON, DC – During the House Armed Services Committee's all-day markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) spoke forcefully on the need to affirm due process rights, fought against a wasteful and unnecessary missile plan, and pushed for an end to the war in Afghanistan. He also championed vital defense missions in Northern California, including Travis and Beale Air Force Bases, the national labs in Livermore, and research universities.
Congressman Garamendi voted against the NDAA because the bill escalates the war in Afghanistan and wastes valuable taxpayer dollars on programs that will not advance national security. The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 56-5 and is expected to be brought to the House floor later this month.
"While including some good provisions, overall this bill takes us in the wrong direction," said Congressman Garamendi. "In order to protect funding for crucial defense programs and investments in our economic prosperity, we have to be a responsible guardian of public funds. Cut where we can to protect what we need. Instead, this bill would establish an unending escalated commitment in Afghanistan, wasting billions of dollars propping up a corrupt Karzai government, and it would create new Pentagon projects that defense officials say are wasteful."
During committee discussion, Congressman Garamendi offered an amendment that explicitly affirmed the due process rights of anyone detained on U.S. soil. He later withdrew the amendment and endorsed Ranking Member Adam Smith's similar amendment. They will encourage their colleagues to vote for the Smith-Garamendi-Berman-Amash amendment on the House floor.
"At the heart of what it means to be an American is the idea that everyone deserves access to a lawyer and a fair judicial process, that everyone is innocent until proven guilty," Congressman Garamendi said. "Many legal experts fear that current law allows a President to arrest and indefinitely detain a person apprehended on U.S. soil and deny them access to a trial. We are a just and resilient enough nation to make sure that everyone has their day in court."
Congressman Garamendi joined Ranking Member Smith on an amendment to strip a section out of the bill that asserted it was the sense of Congress that the U.S. commit to having at least 68,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond December 2014. At a time when a large majority of Americans would like to accelerate the end of the Afghan War, this Republican provision would actually commit 20,000 more American troops to the war. The amendment was narrowly defeated in a 27-34 vote.
"Our brave men and women in uniform have sacrificed enough in Afghanistan. It's time to end the longest war in American history," Congressman Garamendi said. "With Osama Bin Laden dead, his closest partners in terrorism killed or captured, and Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan vanquished, Afghanistan is no longer the front line of our struggle against international terrorism. Let's focus like a laser on Al Qaeda wherever it emerges and end this war."
Wasteful Pentagon Spending
Congressman Garamendi introduced an amendment to the NDAA to strip a wasteful East Coast missile program from the bill. His amendment narrowly failed by a 28-33 vote, with two Republicans standing with Democrats on the side of fiscal restraint. The missile program would cost $100 million to study a potential site, at least $4 billion to construct, and several billion more to operate.
"Experts I've spoken to say this missile program is wasteful, unnecessary, and won't even work. Our limited resources need to be focused on national priorities like smart and agile defense, vital infrastructure, education, and responsibly paying down the deficit," Garamendi explained. "We face legitimate national security threats – suicide bombers, dirty bombs, and cyber attacks among them – and there are far better uses of our taxpayer dollars than this missile boondoggle."
Vital Northern California Defense Missions
Congressman Garamendi fought for and will continue to support policies that help Northern California carry out essential defense missions.
The NDAA contained a provision that would weaken health and safety requirements at nuclear facilities, such as those in Livermore. The Congressman voted for an amendment that would have removed this dangerous provision. He will continue to stand for the highest safety standards at nuclear facilities.
He also offered an amendment that would require a study before transferring construction of a maintenance training facility for the Broad Aerial Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system from Beale Air Force Base to Point Mugu Naval Air Station. BAMS, which is variant of the Global Hawk, was originally planned to be based at Beale (video on the amendment). Though his amendment was not adopted, the Congressman will continue to advocate for basing this mission at Beale.
Garamendi was able to fight off an attempt to remove the MC-12 and Global Hawk Block 30 missions out of Beale Air Force Base.
He also authored an amendment, which passed committee and was adopted into the bill, that would encourage collaboration between defense University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) and other university based research centers on energy initiatives. This measure provides a golden opportunity for universities to leverage their research capabilities towards meeting the energy needs of the military while advancing America's energy security.
"America's universities are an important resource for the development of energy technologies that serve our national defense needs, and I am pleased that Congressman Garamendi recognizes the role we play," said Nicole Woolsey Biggart, Director of the Energy Efficiency Center at the University of California Davis. “UC Davis is working with the Department of the Navy on efficient lighting technologies and I hope that our work on energy efficient cooling, building envelopes, water efficiency and transportation will contribute to the safety and comfort of our troops wherever they serve. We welcome this development."