WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was approved by the Senate 85-13 today “has flaws but is important for our national security and the men and women of our armed forces,” and he released the following statement:
“I supported the National Defense Authorization Act as a clear message to our military men and women and their families that Congress has their back on the battlefield and when they return home to civilian life. This bill will improve the quality of life of the more than two million men and women of our all-volunteer force and their families through fair compensation, policies and benefits, including first rate health care, and addressing the needs of the wounded, ill, and injured service members. Overall, our mission is to invest in our fighting forces – Active duty, National Guard and Reserves – to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to carry out their mission in an efficient and secure manner. NDAA also streamlines rules for contractors, helping Maryland businesses – large and small – compete on a more level playing field for defense acquisitions and assistance.
“The NDAA passed by the Senate does have flaws, including once again tying the President’s hands and keeping us from closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay by placing counterproductive restrictions on the transfer of detainees. GTMO has been a blight on America’s human rights leadership in the world, it continues to be a target for those who wish to harm our citizens, and is an ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars. Opponents have ignored the reality that we have a successful track record of prosecuting, convicting and imprisoning the most dangerous terrorists in U.S. courts and prisons. Detainees should be formally charged and tried in civilian or military courts, as appropriate.
“I am also concerned about the degree to which this bill expands the Department of Defense’s authorities to engage in foreign assistance and security cooperation activities with foreign nations, at the expense of the Department of State’s vital oversight and coordination role.
“Lastly, I regret that the Senate was unable to include a provision elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a Combatant Command, as in the House-passed version. We live in a digital world where the online battlefield can be as dangerous as the front lines and we need to make sure our military is always ready and able to fend off continuing and relentless attacks. Elevating the U.S. Cyber Command is an essential step toward protecting our national security. It also recognizes the stellar work being done at Fort Meade protecting American citizens and our military around the globe.
“I view this bill as a bipartisan starting point that should see improvements during the conference process. I look forward to continuing discussions with Senator McCain and Senator Reed to address my concerns as this bill moves ahead. Maryland is home to over 40 thousand active and reserve service members who have volunteered to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. They deserve the very best we can provide.”