Next Week — The Defense Authorization Bill

The House is scheduled to take up HR 1540, the 2012 defense authorization bill, next week with plans to pass a $689B policy bill by Memorial Day.  That may prove challenging as this bill has some serious problems that any blue-blooded Democrat should have serious problems accepting.

The Potential and Precedence of Giving Too Much Authority to a President:

HR1540, the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in Section 1034, declares that the United States is in an armed conflict with not only al Qaeda and the Taliban, but “associated forces” and individuals, organizations and nations that support such forces. The President could then have the full legal authority to send American troops to engage in acts of war anywhere–Yemen, Somalia, Iran, even the United States–without  constitutionally required Congressional authorization and, consequently, without any restrictions or oversight from the American people or Congress.

SEC. 1034. AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL-QAEDA, THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES.

Congress affirms that—

  1. the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
  1. the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note);
  1. the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who—
  1. are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
  1. have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
  1. the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

Congress must protect the American people from the over-reach of any Chief Executive who is enamored with unilateralism, pre-emption, first strike and the power to prosecute war without Constitutional or statutory proscriptions.  Permanent, global war is not the answer. It will not increase our national security.  Far from ridding the world of terrorism, it will become a terrorist recruitment program.

It Continues to Fund Guantanamo and Disparage Human Rights of “Accused” Individuals

They’re not only NOT closing Guantanamo, they’re prohibiting the construction of facilities on U.S. soil. And, given the discussion of opening up travel to Cuba, they’ve added a provision that prohibits family visitations (to go along with all the other restrictions on access).

  • Section 1036 provides for the continued detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Section 1037 prohibits the use of government funding to build and house detainees transferred from Guantanamo.
  • Section 1038 prohibits family visitations for anyone detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • Section 1039 prohibits any transfers/releases of detainees within the United States
  • Section 1040 establishes prohibitions relating to the transfer/release of detainees
  • Section 1042 defines the term ‘‘terrorist offense’’ means any offense for which the defendant could be tried by a military commission under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (essentially denying any constitutional rights to anyone accused of a “terrorist offense … please notice that I said “accused” … and according to Section 1039, that person, a citizen, might be prohibited from being released back to the United States, even if found to be NOT guilty).

These sections have some pretty onerous requirements that will potentially impose bans on the transfer of any detainee held at Guantanamo, including those who have been cleared of any charges. This means that the United States would be forced to keep imprisoning men who are known to be innocent or are not a threat. This bill not only allows the imprisonment of innocent people, but could mandate it.

And then there’s all the anti-gay amendments that have been included in the bill:

The anti-gay coalition in the House has been actively amending the bill in committee.  Section 533 throws one last obstacle in the way of implementing Public law 111-321, the repeal of Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell Policy.  Section 534 defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.  And, Secti0n 535 prohibits the use of military installation property for marriage ceremonies that do not comply with DOMA.

SEC. 533. ADDITIONAL CONDITION ON REPEAL OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL POLICY.

Effective as of December 22, 2010, and as if included therein as enacted, section 2(b) of Public Law 111–321 (124 Stat. 3516) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘‘(3) The Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force each submit to the congressional defense committees the officer’s written certification that repeal of section 654 of title 10, United States Code, will not degrade the readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, and morale of combat arms units and personnel of the Armed Force under the officer’s jurisdiction engaged in combat, deployed to a combat theater, or preparing for deployment to a combat theater.’’. 

SEC. 534. MILITARY REGULATIONS REGARDING MARRIAGE.

Congress reaffirms the policy of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, codified as section 7 of title 1, United States Code. In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the Department of Defense applicable to members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the Department of Defense, the word ‘‘marriage’’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘‘spouse’’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

SEC. 535. USE OF MILITARY INSTALLATIONS AS SITE FOR MARRIAGE CEREMONIES AND PARTICIPATION OF CHAPLAINS AND OTHER MILITARY AND CIVILIAN PERSONNEL IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY.

(a) LIMITATION ON USE.—A military installation or other property under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense may be used as the site for a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code.

(b) LIMITATION ON PARTICIPATION.—A member of the Armed Forces, including a chaplain, or civilian employee of the Department of Defense acting in an official capacity may assist in or perform a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code.

And, there’s more yet to come once the bill hits the House Floor:

Something not yet in the bill is an amendment from Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).  She intends to present an amendment that would repeal the military’s policy that prevents women from serving in front-line combat units in both the Army and the Marine Corps.  According to an article in the Marine Times, “As of April 1, a total of 137 women have died in the combat zones, with more than 60 killed in combat, showing women are involved in direct ground combat despite the exclusion policy, according to findings included in the bill.”

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