Friday, November 30, 2012

It's NDAA time again

Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that the political left was going bonkers about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)? But I guess it was a year ago because it's time again for Congress to pass the bill that funds the Department of Defense for another year.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has reported out next year's NDAA and the Obama administration (pdf) has issued its list of objections to the bill along with the threat of a veto if its passed in its current form. Of note is the one that addresses the barriers the bill places on the administration's ability to close Guantanamo.
The Administration strongly objects to section 1031's restrictions on the use of funds to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries. When he signed past versions of this legislation, the President objected to the restrictions carried forward by section 1031, promised to work towards their repeal, and warned the Congress that the restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries would in certain circumstances interfere with constitutional responsibilities committed to the Executive Branch. Since these restrictions have been on the books, they have limited the Executive's ability to manage military operations in an ongoing armed conflict, harmed the country's diplomatic relations with allies and counterterrorism partners, and provided no benefit whatsoever to our national security. The Administration continues to believe that restricting the transfer of detainees to the custody of foreign countries in the context of an ongoing armed conflict interferes with the Executive's ability to make important foreign policy and national security determinations, and would in certain circumstances violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The Administration also continues to oppose the prohibition on funding to construct, acquire or modify a detention facility in the United States to house any individual detained at Guantanamo, which shortsightedly constrains the options available to military and counterterrorism professionals to address evolving threats. The restrictions carried forward by section 1031 were misguided when they were enacted and should not be renewed.
This is just one of President Obama's objections to the bill. But perhaps its significance is demonstrated by the fact that it is listed first. It will be interesting to watch how far the administration is willing to go in fighting for this one and what allies they might develop to make the necessary changes. Its important to note that this issue hasn't reached the point where those efforts are directed at Republicans because there have been too many Democrats who still perpetuate the unfounded fears of moving forward on this one.

Another of the administration's objections to NDAA is the fact that the Senate Armed Services Committee had included a provision that restricted the ability of the military to purchase alternative fuels if the costs exceeded those of fossil fuels.

As regular readers here know, for a while now I've been suggesting that one of the most important untold stories these days is the fact that the Department of Defense is going green. As the world's largest consumer of energy, that is - as VP Biden would say - "a big f*cking deal." This provision in NDAA was an attempt to stop the progress.

This week, the Senate voted 62-37 to delete that provision in the NDAA.
The Navy and Air Force have pushed to use more biofuels to operate its aircraft and ships, with military leaders suggesting a greater reliance on alternative sources in the next decade to ease dependence on foreign oil.

The strong bipartisan vote reflected the growing business of alternative fuels in states such as Iowa and Kansas as well as the Dakotas as 11 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in backing the measure.
This is yet another example of why the efforts of DOD to go green are so important. Even Republicans in those states listed above are recognizing that the development of green technology is not only good for the environment and the military, its good for business.

I recognize that the issue of indefinite detention is an important one. But I also think the sole focus on that portion of the NDAA is indicative of some of the problems on the left. It reminds me of the similar obsession with the public option in health care reform that ignored all of the other important aspects of the legislation.

I continue to be mystified by the critiques leveled against the Obama administration on climate change and the lack of discussion about actual policies that address the problem. What has just happened with NDAA on that front is a perfect example.

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