Major Progress on Defense Policy Bill
Last week brought major victories for FCNL’s lobbying priorities when the House moved to reject unnecessary and destabilizing new weapons systems, and preserve longstanding treaties.
For months, we have looked forward to the new direction taken by Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09), the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, who is one of FCNL’s closest allies. With a markup that started on a Wednesday morning and only ended at 6:53 a.m. the next day, Smith and the new majority on the committee advanced their first National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a major yearly bill that sets the policy for the entire U.S. Armed Forces and nuclear weapons enterprise.
The bill includes a provision barring deployment of the new W76-2 “low yield” sea-launched ballistic missile warhead, a dangerously destabilizing weapon—designed to be a “more usable” nuke—that FCNL has long opposed.
Rep. Liz Cheney (WY-01) attempted to block this provision twice, but the majority held firm and rebuffed both attempts via party line vote. While the issue is not yet settled—there will be more amendment votes on the floor and the Authorization will still have to pass the Senate—we are hopeful that we will finally be able to defeat the first of the new nuclear weapons the Trump administration has proposed.
With arms control treaties under threat as never before, the committee also included provisions to prevent the construction of ground launched cruise missiles that would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, following President Trump’s decision to destroy that important arms control agreement, as well as provisions to protect the Open Skies Treaty.
Human Rights Protections
There were also several wins on human rights. Earlier this year, President Trump revoked an executive order requiring a report on civilian casualties from drone strikes. With the margin of a single vote, an amendment by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) restored and expanded that basic level of transparency.
The committee also voted to allow detainees at Guantanamo to be transported to the US for medical treatment, a provision likely to be supported by the Senate. This is a small but significant step towards closing Guantanamo and ensuring that detainees are granted basic human rights and human dignity.
Oversight and Transparency
Last but not least, the House’s version of the NDAA will dramatically restrict the military’s ability to transfer money to non-military projects—like expanding the wall on our southern border—without Congressional approval. The Pentagon will still be able to transfer money to other agencies for legitimate uses approved by Congress, but the military budget cannot be used as a slush fund for the president’s cruel and dehumanizing political agenda.
We still have a long way to go before achieving a sensible and ethical defense budget and national security strategy. But the House NDAA represents real progress and room for hope.