Amendments to House NDAA (H.R. 2810)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810).

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on McClintock Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Amendment (#67)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would strike Section 2702 of the NDAA that prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from conducting an additional round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

Allowing the DOD to save precious resources and better manage military bases should not be controversial. Unfortunately, for the past five years, Congress has denied the Pentagon’s request to conduct a new round of BRAC that could generate $2 billion in annual savings by shutting down military bases and infrastructure that waste taxpayer dollars. As made clear in the Trump administration’s Statement of Administration Policy, the DOD could apply these valuable resources “to higher priorities such as readiness and modernization.”   

By prohibiting a new round of BRAC, members of Congress are undermining Pentagon priorities in order to protect unnecessary military infrastructure in their district or state. But as Secretary of Defense James Mattis argued in his written testimony to the House Armed Services Committee last month:

“In order to ensure we do not waste taxpayer dollars I would therefore greatly appreciate Congress’ willingness to discuss BRAC authorization as an efficiency measure. That authorization is essential to improving our readiness by minimizing wasted resources and accommodating force adjustments. Waste reduction is fundamental to keeping the trust of the American people and is a key element of the efficiency/reform efforts that Congress and the Administration expect of us. Of all the efficiency measure the Department has undertaken over the years, BRAC is one of the most successful and significant.”    

Frederico Bartels, policy analyst for Defense Budgeting in the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation agrees with both the Trump administration and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. In his recent report, “Four Priorities for the New Round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Bartels provides four principles that should shape a new round of BRAC:  

“Congress should authorize a new round of BRAC that (1) mandates savings; (2) sets a specific infrastructure reduction goal; (3) assesses any reductions against the force structure contemplated in the new National Security Strategy; and (4) improves Cost of Base Realignment Actions (COBRA) and tracking of BRAC actions.”

After five years of denying the Pentagon’s request for BRAC, Congress should prioritize military readiness and taxpayer dollars over their own political interests by voting for the McClintock Amendment. The amendment would not impose a BRAC, but it removes the bill’s prohibition against conducting one. Bartels concludes his report writing:

“The 115th Congress should have the courage and discipline to authorize a new round of BRAC. The authorizing legislation should avoid cost overruns, emphasize closings and realignments that save money in five years, and be based on a realistic future force structure. U.S. Armed Forces and tax dollars are too precious to waste on needless bases, infrastructure and maintenance.”

Heritage Action supports the McClintock Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Hartzler Amendment to Prohibit Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition (#315)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would prohibit funds from being used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition for members of the military.  

On June 30, 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a change in military policy to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the armed forces effective at the start of this month. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has delayed final decision on this matter for another six months. At his confirmation hearing in January to become the next Secretary of Defense, Mattis pledged his first priority would be to “strengthen military readiness,” adding “the primitive and often primalistic aspects of the battlefield test the physical strength, the mental ability of everyone.”

Congress should embrace the sentiment of Defense Secretary Mattis and pass the Hartzler Amendment. Doing so would send a clear signal to the American people and to our armed forces that the 115th Congress is committed to keeping politics out of the military and giving our troops the support they need and deserve.

Director for the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation, Thomas Spoehr, released the following statement in reference to the amendment:

“At a time when growing foreign threats are stretching our military’s resources, our priority should be on maintaining military readiness and directing taxpayer funds towards mission critical purposes. Respecting the dignity of all people does not mean subjecting taxpayers to the high and recurring medical costs of sex reassignment which carries uncertain impacts on military readiness.”

Heritage Action supports the Hartzler Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Tenney Amendment to Reinstate Berry Amendment Requirements for Stainless Steel Flatware (#205)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would reinstate stainless steel flatware to the Berry Amendment, effectively limiting the Department of Defense (DOD) to just one source for flatware products.

The Berry Amendment was first passed during World War II to ensure the U.S. military was contracting with U.S. companies that produced certain goods domestically. While the amendment may have made sense during WWII for national security purposes, the need for this protectionist policy is no longer justifiable.

Tori Whiting, research associate in the Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation, writes in a recent report called “Buy American Laws: A Costly Policy Mistake That Hurts Americans”:

“Domestic content requirements (including the Berry Amendment) create costly regulatory hurdles for producers, costing American taxpayers more than they would otherwise pay for government projects, and are unlikely to result in job growth in target industries. Rather than strengthening these laws, Congress and the Administration should eliminate all domestic content laws and create an economic environment in which private business can grow and flourish.”

The amendment offered by Rep. Tenney would not only increase costs for American taxpayers, it would limit choice for the DOD to the current benefit of a single company that is ironically located in the Congresswoman’s district. Whiting called the policy proposal “a textbook example of the type of government cronyism that plagues Washington” because it “would currently benefit a single domestic company, Sherrill Manufacturing,” which is in the district of the amendment’s primary sponsor. “This move would result in higher prices for flatware for the military, a wasteful use of scarce defense dollars,” Whiting concluded.

Injecting protectionism, parochialism and cronyism policy into U.S. armed forces is misguided. This amendment fails to advance U.S. national security interests or increase military readiness and should be rejected by the House of Representatives.

Heritage Action opposes the Tenney Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Gosar Amendment to End Davis-Bacon Act Wage Requirements at the Department of Defense (#111)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would direct the Secretary of Labor to determine the prevailing wage of federal construction contractors with the Department of Defense (DOD) using proper random statistical sampling techniques rather than arbitrary Davis-Bacon Act wage requirements.   

Enacted in 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA) requires contractors to pay no less than the local prevailing wage to on-site workers working on federally funded construction projects costing more than $2,000. Originally passed during the Great Recession to prevent the federal government from driving down construction wages, the DBA has long outlived its purpose. According to Heritage Foundation research, DBA inflates the cost of federal construction, wastes taxpayer dollars, and reduces American jobs. Applying Davis-Bacon wages to the U.S. military would have the same effect.

David Kreutzer, Senior Research Fellow in Labor Markets and Trade in the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, released the following statement:

“Davis-Bacon is a costly penalty the federal government inflicts on itself. On average it adds an extra 22 percent to labor costs. In our world of tight budgets, striking Davis-Bacon from the NDAA is a must if Congress wants to build the military we need for today’s dangerous world.”     

Heritage Action supports the Gosar Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Buck Amendment to Alternative Energy Requirements (#398)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would prohibit funding for the renewable energy mandate at the Department of Defense (DOD) and prohibit the Secretary of Defense from purchasing alternative energy unless it is equivalent to conventional energy in terms of cost and capability. Alternative energy research is exempted under this amendment.

Over the past eight years, the Obama administration steadily introduced its radical energy agenda to the DOD at the detriment of the American taxpayer and military readiness. Our military cannot afford to be taking resources away from its most pressing needs, which is exactly what these DOD energy mandates do.

Heritage defense analysts Rachel Zissimos and Brian Slattery detailed the determinants of some of these renewable energy policies in a research paper on DOD Solar installations:

“…conventional energy sources are employed intermittently as needed to fill gaps left by solar power, but they do so without a decrease in their fixed operations and maintenance costs, which leads to a higher cost per kWH and increasing energy costs across the board. In other words, reliable sources of energy are run less efficiently for the sole purpose of meeting arbitrary political mandates to accommodate more renewable energy…The Administration justifies the excessive costs associated with solar power in the name of energy security, claiming that diversification of energy sources will make the DOD more resilient. In reality, voltage fluctuations that are inherent to solar power can put existing energy infrastructure at risk, resulting in poor power quality and reliability, additional costs, and even safety concerns.”

Heritage is not alone in highlighting these challenges. In January 2016 the GAO wrote a report on DOD energy infrastructure that noted similar concerns:

“Military service officials we spoke with generally stated that it is difficult to integrate intermittent sources of renewable energy (e.g., solar and wind power) into existing infrastructure. For example, in Hawaii, Navy and Army officials stated that because the amounts of intermittent renewable energy can vary significantly, it can cause fluctuations in power quality such as voltage and frequency on small or isolated electricity systems, which can damage equipment connected to them.”

The DOD should pursue renewable or alternative energy options only when it makes economic sense and when it advances our national security — not simply because it fits a political agenda. In a time with increased strain on the military budget, we cannot afford to waste precious military resources on ideological pet projects.

Heritage Action supports the Buck Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.