Letter to House Armed Services Committee in Support of National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2005
Dear Chairman Hunter:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports H.R. 4200, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2005. We believe this $422.2 billion bipartisan measure is a positive step in the continuing efforts to address systemic quality of life, readiness, and modernization shortfalls confronting the services.
However, we are concerned by the inclusion of an amendment at the full committee markup by Rep. Langevin (D-RI) that seeks to limit the ability of the Department of Defense to make reasoned management decisions to benefit the armed services and the American taxpayer. As adopted, the Langevin amendment will drive up operational and personnel costs, decrease efficiencies and innovation, and shut the door on small businesses vying for a share of government contracts.
We are also concerned about trade reciprocity (offsets) language included in the committee bill that would prohibit DoD from entering into contracts with foreign firms in countries that require offsets when procuring defense material from U.S. suppliers. Enactment of such protectionist language would significantly impact the U.S. industrial base, American jobs, international trade, and the military's warfighting capabilities. Also, the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act and the Defense Production Reauthorization Act of 2003 both authorized studies on this issue therefore we urge any action be delayed until the results are considered by Congress.
Military Quality of Life issues are a top priority of the Chamber and business community. H.R. 4200 addresses serious personnel issues by providing an across-the-board 3.5 percent military pay-raise, which is the sixth consecutive year the committee has recommended a pay raise that is in step with the private sector. This bill authorizes extensive health care improvements to take care of service members and their families and honors the committee's commitment to eliminate out-of-pocket housing expenses for service members. In addition, this bill increases and makes permanent the family separation allowance to $250 a month, and increases and makes permanent the special rate of pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger to $225 a month.
To fix fundamental funding shortfalls in procurement and research and development areas, the Chairman's mark increases procurement accounts to $76.2 billion and it increases research and development accounts to $68.1 billion, which is $356 million more than the President's request. These provisions are paramount for 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 $76.2 billion.
This bill authorizes $9 billion for ballistic missile defense research and development and procurement 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.
It is essential that we ensure our armed forces are able to protect and preserve America's global economic and political interests well into the 21st Century. Your continued support of this bipartisan measure will ensure America's military capabilities are prepared for the ongoing global war on terrorism. Because of the importance of this issue to America's businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may consider using votes on H.R. 4200 in our annual "How They Voted" 2004 ratings.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce