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August is typically the month professional committee staffers on
the Hill confer prior to a formal conference of the annual defense
authorization bill by members of Congress. These late summer
meetings are a crucial component of the legislative process that
must be completed before the authorization bill may be signed into
law by the President. Congress has recessed for the month of
August, but the Senate has not yet passed an FY 2009 authorization
bill and the prospects for passage in September remain cloudy.
Congressional leaders have indicated their commitment to passing
the FY 2009 defense appropriations bill, yet the authorization bill
remains at risk for shelving. Senate leaders should agree to
Senator Carl Levin's (D-Mich.) proposed unanimous consent agreement
to limit debate and ensure floor time for this critical legislation
in September. Congress should follow its tradition of ensuring the
defense authorization bill is signed into law as quickly as
possible, because it is the responsibility of Congress to provide
for the country's common defense. Furthermore, swift action would
constitute good governance while providing necessary oversight.
The Clock Is Ticking
The House Armed Services Committee passed its version of this
year's defense authorization bill in May, followed shortly
thereafter by the full House of Representatives. The Senate Armed
Services Committee passed its own version in April but is still
competing for floor time this September before Congress adjourns.
While the Senate typically devotes anywhere from two to five weeks
debating this sweeping policy bill, because of this bill's
importance to the country, such lengthy debate is both appropriate
The 2009 defense bill passed by the Senate Armed Services
Committee authorizes the appropriation of $542.5 billion for the
core defense budget and $70 billion for major combat operations
overseas. Critical new funding authority resides in the Senate's
bill for major programs such as the Army's Future Combat Systems,
Navy shipbuilding programs, the potential continuance of the Air
Force's F-22 fighter, and continued development of an alternate
engine for the F-35 Joint Strike fighter.
Policy Matters at Risk: A Sample
Were the Senate not to take up this defense authorization bill,
the Committee on Armed Services and the full Senate would not weigh
in on critical policy matters, including:
The legislative calendar is quickly running out on the 110th
Congress, and many competing priorities await the U.S. Senate upon
return from recess. However, the 2009 defense authorization bill
should be given due time on the floor for debate--and approval--of
many essential defense policies. Finally, Congress should seek to
conference this important defense policy bill quickly so that it
may be signed into law by the end of the year.
Mackenzie M. Eaglen is
Senior Policy Analyst for National Security in the Douglas and
Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
The legislative calendar is quickly running out on the 110thCongress, and many competing priorities await the U.S. Senate uponreturn from recess. However, the 2009 defense authorization billshould be given due time on the floor for debate-and approval-ofmany essential defense policies. Congress should seek to conferencethis important defense policy bill quickly so that it may be signedinto law by the end of the year.
Protect America Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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