In a Dangerous World, It’s ‘Essential’ President Sign, Not Veto, the Defense Bill, McConnell Says
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today in urging the President to sign the National Defense Authorization Act:
“I was glad to see the Senate come together yesterday to advance the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act.
“This bipartisan defense bill will support our men and women in uniform in many ways.
“It will attack bureaucratic waste, and authorize pay raises and improved quality-of-life programs for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
“It will strengthen sexual assault prevention and response.
“It will help wounded warriors and heroes who struggle with mental-health challenges.
“Most importantly, it will equip the men and women who serve with what they need to defend this nation.
“The Chairman of the Armed Services Committee was unrelenting in his work across the aisle to craft a serious defense bill with input from both parties. He can, and should, take pride in yesterday’s 73 to 26 vote to advance this bill. He should take heart in today’s vote to send it to the President as well.
“That’s where this legislative process should end — with the President’s signature, with a win for our forces and a win for our country at a time of seemingly incalculable global crises.
“But the White House has issued threats that the President might veto this bipartisan bill for unrelated partisan reasons. That would be more than outrageous. It would be yet another grave foreign policy miscalculation from this Administration, something our country can no longer afford.
“A year ago, the President announced a strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL. Today, the threat remains as versatile and resilient as ever.
“ISIL has consolidated its gains within Iraq and Syria. Russia is now deploying troops and attacking the moderate opposition forces in Syria. Iran is reportedly sending additional forces to the battlefield. Civilians are dying and refugees are fleeing.
“John Kerry calls the situation ‘a catastrophe, a human catastrophe really unparalleled in modern times.’
“According to news reports, this is all forcing the President to reconsider his strategy in the region and craft a new one. Regardless of what he decides, it’s going to be protracted struggle. It’s been profoundly challenging already.
“That’s to say nothing of the countless other mounting global threats, from Chinese expansion in the South China Sea to Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.
“Many Americans would say this is the worst possible time for an American President to be threatening to veto their national defense bill, and especially to do so for arbitrary partisan reasons.
“I wish I could say it surprised me that President Obama might — for the sake of unrelated partisan games — actually contemplate vetoing a bipartisan defense bill that contains the level of funding authorization he asked for. I’m calling on him not to, especially in times like these. But if he does, it will the latest sorry chapter in a failed foreign policy based on campaign promises rather than policies to realistically meet the threats before us.
“The President’s approach to foreign policy has been nothing if not consistent over the past seven years. I’ve described this in detail many times before.
“From repeatedly seeking to declare some arbitrary end to the War on Terror, to discarding the tools we have to wage it, to placing unhealthy levels of trust in unaccountable international organizations; the President’s foreign policy has been as predictable as it has been ineffectual.
“Take, for instance, his heavy reliance on economy-of-force train-and-assist missions. This has been the primary tool of the President to cover our drawdown of conventional forces.
“The train-and-equip concept is to train indigenous forces to battle insurgencies in places like Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“These forces ideally partner with U.S. capabilities, but under the President’s policy they have been left to fight alone as we continue drawing down our own conventional forces and capabilities. The essence of this was captured in a speech he delivered at West Point last May.
“There, the President described a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel to be funded by a $5 billion Counterterror partnership fund. By deploying Special Operations forces for train-and-equip missions, the President hoped to manage the diffuse threats posed by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Boko Haram, the Al Nusrah front, the Taliban, Libyan terrorist networks that threaten Egypt, and ISIL.
“The President never explained a strategy — beyond direct action, like unmanned aerial vehicle strikes — for those cases when indigenous forces proved insufficient, as we’ve seen in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
“Nevertheless, this concept of operations suited the President because it allowed him to continue with force structure cuts to our conventional operational units. It allowed him to continue refusing to accept that leaving behind residual forces in places like Iraq and Afghanistan might represent a means by which this nation could preserve the strategic gains made through sacrifice. It also allowed him to continue refusing to rebuild our conventional and nuclear forces.
“This was never an approach designed for success. Today, it’s clear this is now an approach that has also reached its limits.
“The New York Times is hardly an adversary of this Administration, but it recently ran a story titled ‘Billions from U.S. Fail to Sustain Foreign Forces.’ Here’s what it said:
With alarming frequency in recent years, thousands of American-trained security forces in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have collapsed, stalled or defected, calling into question the effectiveness of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the United States on foreign military training programs, as well as a central tenet of the Obama administration’s approach to combating insurgencies.
“Without rebuilding the force, we cannot deter China’s efforts to extend its conventional reach in the South China Sea.
“Without rebuilding the force, we cannot deter Russian adventurism in places like Crimea.
“Without rebuilding and deploying the force, we cannot hope to deter Russia’s gambit to increase its Middle East presence or its air campaign in Syria.
“And, under this strategy, when the host nation militaries we trained and equipped proved inadequate to defeat the insurgency in question, the strategy allowed for a persistent, enduring terrorist threat in those countries.
“That’s just what we’ve seen with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with the Taliban, and now with ISIL.
“I thought that the growth, advance, and evolution of ISIL last year would have presented a turning point for the President. I thought that the fall of Anbar Province and the threat posed to allies like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey would have provoked a reconsideration of his entire national security policy.
“It didn’t then.
“But if the latest stories of White House efforts to revise its ISIL strategy are to be believed, then perhaps the President now finally realizes that the threat from terrorist groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda have outpaced his economy-of-force concept. He may even be accepting the reality that withdrawing arbitrarily from Afghanistan is neither consequence-free nor a good idea.
“One year after the President’s ISIL speech, it’s time to reverse the withdrawal of our military from its forward presence. It's time to lay the groundwork for the next President to rebuild America’s credibility with friend and foe alike.
That’s true of ISIL and it’s true of dissatisfied powers like Russia, China and Iran who are all looking to exploit American withdrawal in pursuit of regional hegemony and dreams of empire.
“To paraphrase the President: Russia is calling, and it wants its empire back.
“China is calling too.
“So is Iran.
“They’ve watched as both our economy-of-force efforts to mask American withdrawal and as other U.S. commitments — like the announcement of a strategic pivot to Asia, without the investments to make it meaningful — have proven hollow.
“The next President, regardless of party, will need to craft plans, policies and programs to balance against this expansion. Signing the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act we pass today — and of course matching the authorization with its corresponding funding — would represent a good first step along that path.
“And if the President is serious in his just-restated commitment to taking all steps necessary to combat ISIL, then he'll know that signing this bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act is anything but the ‘waste of time’ some of his allies might pretend it to be.
Related Issues: America's Military, National Security, ISIL, Syria, Iran, War on Terror, Afghanistan, China