WASHINGTON – The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the Senate Wednesday includes numerous provisions authored by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The bill now heads to the White House after the House of Representatives passed the legislation last week.
Senator Cardin successfully fought back an effort that would have saw thousands of Maryland jobs leave the state. More than half the 8,200 personnel at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) work at Fort Meade and in the National Capital Region, and Cardin’s efforts in collaboration with U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) helped to preserve those jobs from potential loss. “Protecting Maryland jobs is one of my most important duties, and I’m pleased the men and women of DISA who work tirelessly to protect our country every day will now have extended job security to keep up their vital work,” Senator Cardin said.
For years, Senator Cardin has worked with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to author the Syria War Crimes Accountability Act. Now included in the NDAA, the legislation empowers the U.S. government to ensure investigation of and accountability for war crimes and other mass atrocities committed in the Syrian civil war that began more than seven years ago. “The United States should always lead by example in protecting human rights, and these tools will help us better do that. Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his gross violations of international human rights law, given his role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians and the displacement of millions more,” Senator Cardin said.
Stemming from provisions in his Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, Senator Cardin secured an amendment in the NDAA requiring the Secretary of Defense to produce a report regarding narcotics trafficking, corruption, and illicit campaign finance in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, to include the names of government officials who have engaged in such acts. “Human rights abuses and entrenched corruption in Central America have a direct impact on the national security of the United States, and the U.S. government should use the tools at its disposal, such as the Global Magnitsky Act, to name and shame, denying abusers and corrupt officials access to the U.S. and our financial institutions,” Senator Cardin said. U.S. Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) led the effort in the House to secure similar language.
Senator Cardin expressed some concerns about the NDAA legislation, including language to allow the president to issue waivers for allies such as India and Indonesia to purchase military equipment from Russia, under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which Cardin co-authored. The language also removes the ability of Congress to review such waivers. “CAATSA was passed one year ago without this waiver because President Trump has shown weakness in our resolve toward Russia. We should not enable that behavior, and I remain concerned that this language is included in the bill. I am pleased however that additional language was included to strengthen Congress’ oversight role under Section 231,” Senator Cardin said.