Bill de­clares cli­mate change a na­tional se­cu­rity threat

Law­mak­ers also au­tho­rized $696B in de­fense spend­ing

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Richard Lardner

WASHINGTON» The Repub­li­can-led House de­ci­sively ap­proved a de­fense pol­icy bill on Fri­day that de­clares cli­mate change a na­tional se­cu­rity threat, de­mands rig­or­ous over­sight of the Pen­tagon’s cy­ber op­er­a­tions and re­jects the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bid to close mil­i­tary bases.

Law­mak­ers voted 344-81 on Fri­day to pass the sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion. The bill au­tho­rizes $696 bil­lion in de­fense spend­ing for the 2018 fis­cal year, in­clud­ing nearly $30 bil­lion more for core Pen­tagon op­er­a­tions than Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­quested.

Yet de­fense hawks push­ing the hard­est for the big boost in spend­ing still face an up­hill bat­tle. For the spend­ing in­creases to ma­te­ri­al­ize, Congress first will have to agree to roll back a 2011 law that set strict lim­its on mil­i­tary spend­ing. But that won’t be easy. Lift­ing the so-called bud­get caps will face re­sis­tance from Democrats who are seek­ing to in­crease the bud­gets for other gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

If a bud­get deal can’t be reached, Congress may be forced to fund the mil­i­tary through the use of stop­gap spend­ing bills. Un­der these short-term agree­ments, the Pen­tagon’s bud­get is set at cur­rent lev­els

and the mil­i­tary ser­vices are barred from start­ing new pro­grams.

“If you don’t raise the bud­get caps, this leaves us once again in the land of ab­sur­dity,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. Smith is the top rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

The bill in­cludes a sec­tion that says global warm­ing is “a direct threat to the na­tional se­cu­rity.” It’s a po­ten­tially sur­pris­ing ad­di­tion given Trump’s pub­licly stated doubts about cli­mate change and his re­cent de­ci­sion to pull the U.S. out of the land­mark ac­cord aimed at com­bat­ting global warm­ing.

The sec­tion re­quires the Pen­tagon to de­liver a re­port to Congress de­tail­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change on the armed forces. The cli­mate change re­port also is to list the 10 mil­i­tary bases most vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing oceans, in­creased flood­ing, wild­fires and other ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Over White House ob­jec­tions, the bill added a bi­par­ti­san mea­sure crafted by Smith and Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, the chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, re­quir­ing the De­fense Depart­ment to in­form Congress within 48 hours of “any sen­si­tive mil­i­tary cy­ber op­er­a­tion.” Of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive cy­ber op­er­a­tions are cov­ered by the no­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ment, although covert ac­tions are ex­empt.

The bill also man­dates that the depart­ment tell Congress, also within two days, about the re­sults of any le­gal re­view by one of the mil­i­tary ser­vices of a cy­ber ca­pa­bil­ity that is in­tended to be used as a weapon. Thorn­berry, a Texas Repub­li­can, has de­scribed the mea­sure as a way to pro­mote greater trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity for one of the most clas­si­fied el­e­ments of the Amer­i­can arse­nal.

But the Trump White House in­sists that Congress al­ready is kept wellinformed of ma­jor cy­ber op­er­a­tions.

“This pro­vi­sion would risk ex­po­sure, and po­ten­tially re­strict use, of cy­ber ca­pa­bil­i­ties; jeop­ar­dize for­eign part­ner­ship co­op­er­a­tion; and im­pose ad­di­tional, un­war­ranted ad­min­is­tra­tive re­quire­ments on DOD,” the White House said in a state­ment ear­lier this week.

The bill re­jected the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest that the Pen­tagon be given the au­thor­ity to start a new round of mil­i­tary base clos­ings in 2021. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis told the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee last month that clos­ing ex­cess in­stal­la­tions would save $10 bil­lion over a five-year pe­riod.

He said the sav­ings which could be used to ac­quire four nu­clear sub­marines or dozens of jet fight­ers.

But mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions are prized pos­ses­sions in con­gres­sional dis­tricts and law­mak­ers re­fused to go along with Trump just as they de­nied for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s bid to shut­ter fa­cil­i­ties.

Be­fore vot­ing on fi­nal pas­sage, 27 Repub­li­cans joined Democrats to turn aside a con­tentious amend­ment crafted by Rep. Trent Franks, RAriz., that would have re­quired the Pen­tagon to iden­tify “Is­lamic reli­gious doc­trines, con­cepts, or schools of thought” used by the Is­lamic State and other ter­ror­ist groups for re­cruit­ment, fi­nanc­ing or pro­pa­ganda pur­poses.

The as­sess­ments, ac­cord­ing to Franks’ amend­ment, also would pin­point “key thought lead­ers” who hold ex­trem­ist views and those that don’t.

But Rep. Keith El­li­son, D-Minn., and other op­po­nents of the amend­ment charged the mea­sure would al­low the U.S. gov­ern­ment to tar­get peo­ple, Mus­lims in par­tic­u­lar, be­cause of their re­li­gion.

El­li­son is the first Mus­lim elected to Congress.

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