Vice Chairwoman Mikulski Statement on Defense Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate voted on final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) and on the motion to proceed to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2016:
“Mr. President, I rise today to commend the honorable men and women in Maryland — including the 28,939 men and women on active duty, the 6,223 in the National Guard, our Reservists, and our civilian employees and contractors — who are serving our nation.
“When I go around the state to bases like Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Fort Meade, Fort Detrick, the US Naval Academy, and others, I see the people who put their lives on the line every day to defend America.
“I support you.  I am fighting to make sure you and your families have the resources you need: from equipment, to training, to fresh, healthy food at our commissaries.  That is why today I voted against the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and the motion to proceed to the Defense Appropriations Bill.
“My vote was not a vote against our national defense, it was a vote for our national defense.  It was a vote to end sequester, and a vote for military readiness.
“How will voting against a funding bill help end sequester? Because it brings us to the table now – in June — to agree on how we are going to fund the vital programs that we all agree are necessary to protect our nation.  Not in September.  Not in November.  Not when another funding deadline looms, or when there is a clock ticking until the government shut downs.  We are going to address this now, so the Senate can do its job to support our troops, our military families, our veterans, and our National Security.
“National Security is more than the Department of Defense.  We need diplomacy around the world to prevent conflicts when we can, and end them once started.  So we need our State Department.  We need embassy security to keep our Foreign Service safe – and that’s not funded by the Department of Defense.
“Our law enforcement agencies here at home also protect our National Security.  The FBI, tracking down lone wolf terrorists; the Coast Guard, protecting our coasts from smugglers and drug traffickers; Customs and Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – all standing sentry to protect America.  Yet none are funded by the Department of Defense.
“Nation states and organized crime are infiltrating our cyber networks, and we need the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help us protect dot-com and dot-gov.  Those key cyberwarriors are not funded by the Department of Defense.
“Finally, we need troops ready for duty.  Sadly, only 1 in 4 recruits can pass muster, many for lack of education or lack of physical fitness.  We need great schools turning out great graduates ready to work.  We need childhood nutrition to feed them healthy meals that build healthy bodies.  But education and nutrition are not funded by the Department of Defense.
“In order make the Department of Defense successful, we need to stop hollowing out America.  This means making sure our other agencies have the resources necessary to meet national security needs at home and abroad.
“However, the Republican Budget uses two sets of rules.  First, pretend funding for basic, essential military operations — things that are supposed to be in the base budget — taken from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account that was created for funding wars.  This gimmick allows $38 billion of extra defense spending by evading the budget caps.  The second rule the Republicans are using is saying we’re going to apply the sequester budget constraints to the rest of the federal agencies.  That is not acceptable.  But we can fix it.
“We need to end sequester for defense, without gimmicks, and we need to end sequester for the rest of our agencies.  We need to make sure defense has the right resources, but we also need to make sure that the other agencies who protect our country and make it great and are not included in the defense bill, have the resources they need too.  Today I voted NO to moving to the Defense Appropriations bill.  But that NO is meant to speed up the process of getting a better outcome for our troops and our country.
“Many of my colleagues fail to mention that we in Congress can go through these motions: we can pass funding bills, go to conference, and send them to the President’s desk.  But that will do no good if the President vetoes these bills — which he has said he will do if they include budget gimmicks.  
“I hope that after having this vote, our leadership will sit down and negotiate a new budget deal, now in June. We need to have a real solution for the budget constraints that impact all of our federal agencies, so that our nation can be protected and the government can serve the people. That is what the people deserve.”