Rep. Adam Smith and the 2021 NDAA

(update 2020-07-10)

Rep. Adam Smith (D -CD09 WA), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, is continuing his mostly hawkish management of the Pentagon with the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

The NDAA raises the base Pentagon budget to $740.5 billion (versus $738 this for the 2020 budget). It restricts President Trump’s ability to withdraw troops from German, Afghanistan, and Africa. It continues funding for the space force and tactical nukes. It allocates $3.6 billion for the Pacific Defense Initiative to confront China.  It rejected an amendment to impose limits on the ability of the U.S. to arm and otherwise assist Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. It rejected an amendment to make the Trump administration provide a national security rationale before withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Military Times reports:

As happens every year, the bill would prohibit the transfer or release of any of the remaining 40 prisoners at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility to the United States, and also prohibit their transfer or release to Libya, Somalia, Syria or Yemen.

In addition, the bill would prohibit any attempt to close or abandon Guantanamo or give up control of the base to Cuba.

In another annual ritual, the bill would again bar a new round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, a perennial fear of senators and representatives with bases in their states or districts.

The bill does try to cap the amount of money Trump can take from the Pentagon budget for emergency purposes such as the border wall.  Rep. Smith voted with Ro Khanna on an amendment meant to restrict development of ICBMs, but the amendment failed.

The bill still needs to be considered by the full House and then reconciled with the Senate’s version.

If you include spending for veterans and for costs for previous wars, total federal spending exceeds $1 trillion a year. See How much does the U.S. spend on the military? A least 24% of the federal budget.

Glenn Greenwald’s analysis points out that a few Republicans joined with a few progressive Democrats in opposing attempts to restrict troop drawdowns: House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump’s Planned Withdrawal of Troops From Afghanistan and Germany. In fact, more Republicans than Democrats voted against the amendment to prevent troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. So, Dems were more hawkish.  The hawkish lawmakers thought that Trump’s withdrawal plans were rewarding Russia and risking gains.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a second, more detailed article How the House Armed Services Committee, in the Middle of a Pandemic, Approved a Huge Military Budget and More War in Afghanistan on July 9, 2020. In it, Greenwald is critical of Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Jason Crow and other Democrats who work with Republicans such as Liz Cheney to boost militarism. Here’s a video he made on the topic:

I have spoken with Rep. Smith about the costs of militarism, but he continues to think that the U.S. needs to pre-position troops and equipment in Europe (to confront Russia), in Africa (to confront Islamic extremists) and in Asia (to confront China). Nor does he see much scope for decreasing the military budget.

By the way, Richard Eskow’s July 7 article The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill in Common Dreams says

And there was one piece of good news: the Committee adopted an amendment from Khanna to end logistical support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. The Saudi assault on that country has created a humanitarian catastrophe, one Congress should have prevented.

But Glenn Greenwald’s article says otherwise.  And Eskow’s article says, that the $740 billion Pentagon budget  “doesn’t include the ;Overseas Contingency Operations’ budget that funds the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which the Defense Department is requesting $69 billion.” But in fact the $740 billion does include OCO.

For further information see House panel approves $740.5B defense policy bill  and Smith reveals $3.6B plan to counter China.

Congress moves to block Trump’s Germany troop withdrawal plans “House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said separately Tuesday that the plan seemed strategically unsound and that Congress should block the administration until it makes its case. Legislative action is likely in the House on Wednesday when Smith’s panel marks up the HASC version of the bill.”

House defense bill targets potential troop drawdowns in Africa, South Korea

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy bill seeks to put roadblocks on withdrawing U.S. troops from Africa and South Korea.

The so-called chairman’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the version of the bill drafted by Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) – would require the Pentagon to report to Congress on the effects, implications and costs of a troop drawdown in Africa on military, diplomatic, development and humanitarian efforts.

July 10, 2020: Yemen: 20 NGOs Call for An Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. “As organizations working to halt the war and end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, we write to urge your support for an amendment to the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would pause all transfers of U.S. air-to-ground munitions to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition fighting in the war in Yemen. The House adopted such a provision in the FY2020 NDAA, though it was not included in the final conferenced bill enacted by Congress.”

For the gory details about the 2021 NDAA proposed by Rep. Smith see Summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(Added 2020-07-13: Congress Wants More Unnecessary Anti-China Weapons Programs in Annual Defense Bill, on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed increase of an additional $43 billion in the NDAA for preparing for war with China.)

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