Sen. Carper Supports $612.5 Billion Defense Bill

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) voted late today in support of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, which authorizes $612.5 billion to sustain U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, enhance our troops’ ability to combat 21st century threats, improve the quality of life for service members and their families, and reduce government waste.

"With the U.S. waging two wars critical to our national security, we need to keep our military strong and ready to face any challenge. This bipartisan bill ensures that our men and women serving abroad are fully equipped to secure Iraq and defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan," Sen. Carper said. "Here at home, this bill helps equip our National Guard units in Delaware, provide a well-earned pay increase for our military personnel and also strengthens the support for military spouses and families."

Specifically, the Defense Authorization Bill provides $70 billion to fully fund our military’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the remainder of 2008 and into the beginning of 2009, thereby ensuring a steady stream of funding during the presidential transition this January.

The legislation authorizes additional funding to help troops both in battle and when they return home, including:

– $391 million to address Army National Guard equipment shortfalls so that Guardsmen have the resources to support military operations overseas and to fulfill disaster assistance missions here at home;
– $3 billion for the Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund-the military’s program to counter and eliminate roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices that have claimed the lives of many U.S. troops;
– $270 million for missile defense programs and $120 million for counter proliferation programs to help protect the United States and its allies from the threat of weapons of mass destruction; and
– $104 billion to procure state-of-the-art weapons and equipment to help troops ensure our nation’s security.

The bill also authorizes a 3.9 percent pay raise for all military personnel, which is half a percentage point higher than the President’s request, and requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a comprehensive policy to combat service member suicide, and to establish programs to provide education and training in flexible and portable careers for military spouses.

In addition, Sen. Carper, as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, highlighted three key policy initiatives included in the Defense Authorization Bill that will help reduce waste and unnecessary government spending. The bill:

– Requires the U.S. government begin negotiating an agreement with the Iraqi government to share the costs of joint operations between the Government of Iraq and Multinational Forces Iraq, and require that Iraqi funds cover the cost of training, equipping, and sustaining the Iraqi Security Forces;
– Authorizes an investment of $100 million in advanced energy technologies, which will include programs to develop hybrid engines and biofuels for military systems; and
– Includes provisions to enhance the federal government’s ability to prosecute defense contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to recover money lost to contracting fraud.

Last year, Sen. Carper toured Iraq and held hearings on contingency contracting to determine how Congress can improve contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent costly defense contracting problems. His diligence paid off, as the bill passed by the Senate contained Sen. Carper’s provision to ensure more and better government oversight of contingency defense contracting.

"There is an old saying that you can’t manage what you can’t measure," Sen. Carper said. "Congress is responsible for overseeing contracting in war zones and our government agencies need to know how our commanders are including contracting support plans in their contingency operations."