Letter to Representative Bob Stump The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2003 (HR 4546)
The Honorable Bob Stump
United States House of Representatives
211 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Stump:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than 3 million organizations of every size, sector, and region, urges you to support HR 4546, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2003. We strongly believe this bipartisan measure is a positive step in the continuing efforts to address systemic quality of life, readiness, and modernization shortfalls confronting the services.
HR 4546 addresses serious personnel issues by providing an across-the-board 4.1% military pay raise, with targeted increases of up to 6.5% for mid-grade and senior noncommissioned officers and mid-grade officers — as well as authorizing extensive health care improvements to take care of service members and their families. It also reduces out-of-pocket housing costs for military personnel by increasing housing allowances to cover 92.5% of all housing costs with the goal of completely eliminating costs by 2005.
To fix fundamental funding shortfalls in procurement and research and development areas, HR 4546 increases procurement accounts to $73.4 billion and it increases research and development accounts to $56.5 billion, which is $649 million more than the President's request. Both of these provisions are vital keystones to preserving U.S. military technological superiority. We applaud these needed increases, but agree with many military experts that procurement funding levels should be set far above the proposed $73.4 billion.
This bill also increases funding for ballistic missile defense by $21 million over the President's request to $7.8 billion so that the Pentagon can continue the national policy of implementing a missile defense system. Currently the United States remains defenseless against ballistic missiles and the rapidly evolving missile threats from rogue nations and terrorists. Fully funding ballistic missile defense sends a clear signal to our friends and allies that we are serious about protecting our national security interests.
The bill includes language that would expand on the Federal Prison Industries (FPI) reform enacted last year by giving the Department of Defense (DoD) more explicit authority to decide what products and services best meets their needs in terms of price, quality or delivery schedule. It also provides further protections for businesses by eliminating FPI's ability to force DoD prime contractors and major subcontractors to use FPI as a subcontractor or supplier. And most important for our citizens and our national security, the language prevents federal inmates from providing services that would allow them access to classified and infrastructure information and personal information about individual private citizens.
In addition, we would strongly oppose any attempts to include language that would impose restraints and excessive reporting requirements on the contracting process within DoD. Such language was offered and subsequently withdrawn by Reps. Allen and Andrews in the recent full Committee markup. Just this week, the General Accounting Office Commercial Activities Panel presented to Congress its findings and recommendations on the current process used by the government to make sourcing decisions. While we understand the current process is in need of repair, including restrictive language before Congress has had a chance to properly review the panel report would be premature and counterproductive.
It is essential that we ensure our armed forces are able to protect America's global economic and political interests well into the 21st century. Your support of this bipartisan measure will help ensure America's military capabilities are proportionate to its superpower responsibilities. Because of the importance of this issue to America's businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may consider using votes on HR 4546 in our annual "How They Voted" 2002 ratings.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce