Seven measures address key issues including healthcare and military’s readiness to confront future challenges
Washington, D.C. – To provide our service members and their families the benefits they deserve, and to ensure our military is equipped and in a proper state of readiness to deal with 21st century challenges, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA – 07) supported the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House by a 229-186 margin.
In total, HR 5136 authorizes $726 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The Congressman, a member of the House Armed Serves Committee, successfully submitted seven amendments to deal with specific areas in which the military must improve to keep our nation safe and offer the men and women who wear the cloth of this Nation the care they deserve.
Specifically, Congressman Sestak’s amendments focus on transforming the military to one that is more “knowledge-intensive” in an era when dominance of cyberspace is critical; enhancing the efficiency of military equipment; providing servicemembers with superior health and education benefits; and ensuring fair restitution for American prisoners of war and their families.
Congressman Sestak also voted for the Murphy Amendment, which sets in place a framework to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The language would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” after: (1) receipt of the recommendations of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement a repeal (due December 1, 2010) and (2) a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is first, consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion & recruiting, and second, that the DoD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement its repeal.
“The annual consideration of this act provides an important opportunity, as a member of this committee, to make sure our military will have the resources it needs to keep our country safe and that our troops and their families are taken care of,” said Congressman Sestak. “Inaction is not an option when it comes to ensuring our service members with PTSD get the best possible treatment, nor when considering ways in which our military can become more efficient and transform to best meet future threats to our security. Each of my amendments won support of the committee because they address specific areas in which we know we can do better and in which our troops deserve better.”
“‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ is discriminatory and detrimental to national security,” said the Congressman, who has been a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the policy in the current and previous Congresses. “It was a flawed compromise that should never have been enacted, and I continue to regret every instance of its enforcement that I witnessed as a military officer. I can remember several instances from my 31-year tenure in the Navy when outstanding servicemen, with all the qualities I could ever ask for as a commanding officer, approached me about these issues. I did not want to lose any of these sailors. My only thought was that the nation needed their skills, talent, and patriotism.”
The Congressman’s amendments in the bill include the following:
Combat Casualty Research
To address another area in which care of our service members requires improvement, this provision stipulates that the Secretary of Defense may establish a National Casualty Care Research Center at the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC). The Center will build upon the MRMC’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program which does not sufficiently integrate civilian research and is not a national body that centralizes combat casualty and trauma care research programs nationwide. The National Casualty Care Research Center will act as both a national center for all combat casualty care research and a center for civilian/military collaboration into combat casualty care.
Visiting NIH Senior Neuroscience Fellowship
The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to establish the Visiting NIH Senior Neuroscience Fellowship Program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The Program is intended to provide critical neuroscience expertise and support to both of these organizations through implementation of visiting fellowships for NIH scientists with appropriate research expertise as well as extramural scientific review experience. It will serve as an important part of an effort to promote sponsorship of state-of-the-art neuroscience research.
DARPA’s current neuroscience program is innovative, but small, and does not integrate the full range of civilian neuroscience research that is relevant to DARPA’s mission. The Center is a newly formed organization with a collaborative mission which is well suited to the Program.
Joint Force Funding for Cyberspace
To understand the scope and challenges inherent in acquiring transformational military capabilities in cyberspace, this amendment would commission two Department of Defense studies to analyze alternative models and recommend changes from the present Service-based approach for acquisition and funding of inter-connected cyberspace systems. The Congressman has maintained that the greatest improvement in warfare capability would be to effect a transformational change that ensures our military always has the “knowledge” to act before his adversary as a result of cyberspace dominance.
In FY 2008, Congress commissioned a study to further define and enhance the roles and missions of each branch of the military. However, in the area of network-centric warfare (cyberspace), it is the Joint forces which collectively possess the potential to significantly transform and improve the nation’s future war-fighting capability. When possible, procurement by the Joint forces should be favored because it is in the best position to address cyber security needs with a smoother acquisitions process. The ultimate end state of such a transformation in cyberspace would be something not yet in place: assured common knowledge across the services, enabling U.S. deployed forces to act more swiftly and decisively than any adversary.
Thorium Study for Energy Efficiency
Congressman Sestak submitted language directing a study on the use of thorium-liquid fueled nuclear reactors for naval power, an important assessment of an energy source that has shown great potential to be more efficient for our military. As a result, the House Armed Services Committee included funding in the bill for research and development of a nuclear-powered destroyer reactor utilizing thorium energy.
While our nuclear Navy has thrived with a continuing record of zero reactor accidents, thorium may be more efficient than uranium as a fuel source. Massive fuel rods would not have to be utilized, and it produces only 1/2000th the waste of uranium. In domestic applications, waste can even be stored on-site, eliminating the necessity of facilities such as Yucca Mountain. Large deposits of thorium can be mined domestically in States such as Idaho, and we already have 160,000 tons in reserve.
Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, any new major combatant vessels for the U.S. strike force is required to be constructed with an integrated nuclear power system unless the Secretary of Defense submits a notification to Congress that the inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system in a given class of ship is not in the national interest. While the Congressman is not yet convinced that nuclear power for Naval ships is always cost-beneficial in the long term, if there are nuclear-powered vessels that continue to be built under Congressional mandate, then all options for the fuel source are worthy of consideration.
Claims of American Prisoners of War (POWs)
Congressman Sestak continued his ongoing fight to ensure that American soldiers and citizens held and tortured in Iraq during the first Gulf War are adequately compensated. He successfully submitted an amendment that expresses the sense of Congress that their claims should be resolved.
In a 2003 suit brought by 17 American POWs and 37 of their family members, Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service were found liable for $653 million in compensatory damages and $306 million in punitive damages. President Bush, however, vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act in 2007 to prevent the court-approved payment of compensation from Iraq for the American POWs and a group of American citizens who were held as human shields during that conflict.
In 2008, the House passed The Justice for Victims of Torture and Terrorism Act, introduced by Congressman Sestak and Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa, which would have given the Iraqi government 90 days to provide fair restitution to the victims or the waiver of immunity for the Iraqi government, would be repealed. The bill served the interests of the reconstruction of Iraq by forgiving as much as two-thirds of the cost of compensatory judgments against Iraq as well as punitive damages. However, the Senate did not consider the bill. This amendment cites the damages called for in the bill and urges resolution of these claims in the ongoing negotiations between the State Department and Government of Iraq.
Expanding Eligibility for Admission to the Community College of the Air Force
Congressman Sestak also successfully submitted an amendment which would require the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of the Air Force, to conduct a study on the cost and feasibility of expanding access to the Community College of the Air Force to enlisted members of all the services. Currently, only Air Force servicemen and servicemen of other branches who are teaching within the institution are eligible for admission.
The Air Force Community College is the only institution of its kind. It permits students to transition military training into academic credit and receive associates degrees. It is a federally-chartered degree-granting institution that serves the United States Air Force’s enlisted total force, partnering with over 90 affiliated Air Force schools, 82 Education Service Offices located worldwide, and more than 1,500 civilian academic institutions to serve more than 320,000 active, guard, and reserve enlisted personnel, making CCAF the world’s largest community college system.
Unlike most other trade schools, the Community College of the Air Force is regionally accredited, meaning its credits are generally honored by four-year institutions. Expanding eligibility to all the services would allow more of our American heroes to transition their military training into academic credit and successfully adjust to civilian life upon departure for the armed services.
Flight Simulator Study
Congressman Sestak also successfully submitted an amendment which instructs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study on the effectiveness of simulated tactical flight training in a sustained g environment. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the potential military applications of “flyable” centrifuge motion platform simulators, which produce the sustained g-forces that pilots would experience while flying an actual aircraft.
Specifically, the study would evaluate the:
that would be provided by the use of these simulators.
Other Details of HR 5136
Strengthening Military Forces
Strengthening Counterterrorism Efforts and Force Protection
Strengthening Missile Defense and Nonproliferation
Strengthening Support for Service Members and Their Families
Born and raised in Delaware County, former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and now serves as the Representative from the 7th District of Pennsylvania. He led a series of operational commands at sea, including Commander of an aircraft carrier battle group of 30 U.S. and allied ships with over 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft that conducted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 9/11, Joe was the first Director of “Deep Blue,” the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit that established strategic and operations policies for the “Global War on Terrorism.” He served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council in the White House, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. According to the office of the House Historian, Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to the Congress.