November 16, 2016

The Senate's National Security To-Do List

  • Iran Sanctions Act: Expires at the end of the year. Extending it would be consistent with the Iran nuclear agreement.
  • Defense authorization conference report: Congress should complete the bill setting the policy priorities for the Department of Defense.
  • War supplemental: Despite President Obama continually taking credit for ending wars, the administration recently submitted a request for supplemental funds for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. 

Iran Sanctions

The Iran Sanctions Act expires at the end of the year. It is a vital part of the sanctions regime that aims to deny Iran the resources to support terrorism and develop weapons of mass destruction.

“We will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism.”President Obama, 07-14-2015

Extending the Iran Sanctions Act is perfectly consistent with the Iran nuclear agreement. When this deal was completed, the Obama administration repeatedly promised that U.S. sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism would remain in place. As the administration made clear, the agreement was about providing Iran “relief only from nuclear-related sanctions.” 

Section eight of the Iran Sanctions Act describes the conditions under which sanctions should terminate. They include requirements that Iran is no longer listed as a state sponsor of terrorism and that it “poses no significant threat” to U.S. national security. Iran clearly does not meet either of these conditions. Congress should extend the authorities of the Iran Sanctions Act.

Defense Authorization

The defense authorization bill is a critical component of the national security policy making process. It sets the policy and programmatic direction, priorities, and preferences for the Department of Defense. It passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13 in June and is currently in the conference committee process. A conference report will likely have many vital provisions, such as:

  • banning the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States
  • a comprehensive update of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through the Military Justice Act of 2016
  • authorizing a pay raise for service members 

War Supplemental

Last week President Obama submitted a request for supplemental funding for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. It is obvious that this request was submitted after the election in order to maintain the fiction that President Obama “ended two wars.”

In 2009 President Obama submitted what he called his “last planned war supplemental.” He then went on to request supplemental funding every year of his presidency in the form of “Overseas Contingency Operations” spending. Last week’s submission is just the latest such request.

It stands in contrast to his 2012 announcement from Bagram Airfield that he would “end the war in Afghanistan” and his 2014 statement that the war in Afghanistan was “coming to a responsible conclusion.” The White House web site still features a blog post from 2011 bragging “President Obama has ended the war in Iraq.” It is a clear example of the disconnect between President Obama’s rhetoric and the actual governing reality.

The request is for $11.6 billion in OCO money, $5.8 billion for the Department of Defense, and $5.8 billion for activities at the Department of State. Of this amount, $2.5 billion is for DOD to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of fiscal year 2017. 

Issue Tags: National Security, Senate