Amendments to Senate NDAA (S. 2943)
Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943):
Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Durbin Amendment on Non-Defense Research Spending
This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Dick Durbin to S. 2943, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. His amendment would strike two provisions in the base bill restricting funding for non-defense research priorities.
Our military is facing real challenges as budget constraints have squeezed capabilities and impacted readiness. Justin Johnson, a defense budget analyst at The Heritage Foundation, recently highlighted the real life consequences for our military. His piece included these examples:
- The Marine Corps is pulling parts off of museum planes to keep their F-18s flying.
- Only one-third of Army brigades are ready for combat.
- The Air Force is cannibalizing parts from some F-16’s to keep other F-16’s flying and is pulling parts off museum planes to keep their B-1 bombers flying.
- The Navy keeps extending deployments of its ships, but still doesn’t have enough to meet demand.
- Serious crashes of Marine Corps planes and helicopters are nearly double the 10-year average.
- The Air Force’s B-52 bombers are an average of 53 years old.
In light of these challenges, the Senate Armed Services Committee included language to restrict funding for non-defense research at the Pentagon in order to stretch the dollars as far as possible to meet our military’s most pressing needs. Unfortunately, over the years it has become routine for Congress to add extraneous research dollars to the defense budget.
The Heritage Foundation highlighted this issue earlier this year in the Blue Print for Balance and recommended action as a possible place to find savings within the defense budget:
“The Defense Department has the largest research and development budget of the federal government, equaling roughly $70 billion a year. While the vast majority of this amount goes toward developing advanced military systems or technologies that have battlefield applications, each year the DOD spends money on various projects that have no reason to be funded by the defense budget. In many cases, these projects are already being funded by other federal departments. For example, the DOD currently has $120 million worth of grants available to support breast cancer research, and $132 million more for research on cancer, epilepsy, and prostate and ovarian cancers.”
To make matters worse, according to Justin Johnson, “Congress added far more money for non-military cancer research last year than they did for serious military medical challenges like traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress.” These misguided priorities must change.
If funding for these things is a true priority for Congress they should debate the merits of that spending at the appropriate time and on the appropriate bill. Taking away resources from our military at a time the most need it is a complete disservice to the men and women serving this country.
Heritage Action opposes the Durbin Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.