July 27, 2023

Wyden Votes No on Massive Military Policy Bill: NDAA Fails to Hold the Pentagon Accountable for Wasteful Spending and Fraud

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued the following statement after voting against the National Defense Authorization Act today.

“I’d like to commend my Senate colleagues for ensuring that this year’s defense policy bill received a open floor process, with the consideration of many worthy amendments across a diverse range of issues. Ultimately, this year’s Senate bill authorizes $886 billion for the Department of Defense, national security programming, and for the Department of Energy. I successfully secured $97.5 million for the Oregon National Guard to construct a much-needed special tactics complex in Portland and a readiness center in Washington County. I also worked to secure funding for the development of therapeutics that address PTSD among servicemembers, veterans, and the greater civilian population. Additionally, I strongly support the inclusion of a 5.2% pay raise for both military servicemembers and the defense civilian workforce, improvements to enlisted members’ housing, greater support to military spouses and children, especially those with severe disabilities, cybersecurity protections that make it harder for our adversaries to hack servicemembers, and efforts to review and improve the TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits Program. 

“But I cannot in good conscience support spending $886 billion on military spending— nearly a $40 billion increase over both last year’s defense budget and the President’s budget request for this year. Congress simply cannot continue authorizing a massive slush fund for the Pentagon, when it remains incapable of passing a clean audit, tracking its assets, and addressing fraud. This defense bill fails to include stronger budget controls, despite my efforts to add them, and I remain concerned about taxpayer dollars lining the pockets of defense contractors and billionaire investors, particularly when my colleagues across the aisle are keen on slashing housing, education, childcare and healthcare programming.

“Congress must now reconcile differences between the Senate defense bill and the version passed by the deeply partisan House — which included provisions to limit servicemembers’ reproductive care, gender-affirming care, and diversity and equity initiatives. Oregonians can rest assured that I will fight for their priorities and block provisions that seek to harm those who bravely wear the uniform of the United States Military.”

Wyden supports the following policies included in the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act:

  1. Strategic investments to address competition from China.
  2. Countering Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine.
  3. Enhancing security cooperation with longstanding allies and partners – including NATO. 
  4. Mandating cybersecurity improvements to the software developed, acquired and used by DoD, making it harder for our adversaries to hack. DoD would be required to implement a number of cybersecurity recommendations that the National Security Agency published in 2022 at Wyden’s request.
  5. Requiring DoD to adopt an agency-wide policy, governing its use of surveillance countermeasures, to prevent public tracking of sensitive U.S. government flights operated by DoD, including flights carrying senior U.S. government officials.
  6. Allowing DoD to protect the personal online accounts of our troops from hacking and surveillance by foreign governments. Congress previously passed legislation that Wyden wrote requiring the intelligence community to provide similar protections to IC personnel. This provision will also require a GAO report assessing DoD’s efforts to protect the personal information of U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families from exploitation by foreign adversaries.

However Wyden voted against the bill, due to a number of concerns, including:

  1. Unnecessarily expands the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
  2. Authorizes unneeded equipment through expensive multiyear procurement contracts.
  3. Fails to address veterans’ concerns around concurrent receipt of disability compensation and retired pay. 
  4. Does not support Afghan refugees seeking permanent residency, despite bipartisan support.