The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act grants permission for next year’s wars. In this episode, we look at how the new law, in partnership with a reckless Executive Order, will provide weapons to terrorists and legalize American wars fought with foreign humans. Also in this episode, learn about the new Ministry of Propaganda (the “Global Engagement Center”) that the United States will open in July.
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Bill Highlighted in This Episode
Title III—Operation and Maintenance
- The Secretary of Defense can waive the requirement that Federal agencies only purchase alternative fuels if the greenhouse gas emissions are equal or lower to the conventional fuel typically used, as long as he notifies Congress.
- “It is the sense of Congress that…
- “decisions relating to the funding of the Dept. of Defense … should prioritize the support and enhancement of the combat capabilities of the Dept”
- funds should be allocated among the programs of the Dept in the manner that best serves the national security interests of the US
- decisions relating to energy efficiency, energy use, and climate change should adhere to the principles described above
Title VI—Compensation and Other Personnel Benefits
- Effective January 1, 2017, the rates of monthly basic pay for military members is 2.1 percent
- Gives the Defense Dept one year to report to Congress on a new pay structure: A “single salary system,” which will take effect on January 1, 2018.
- They are going to test a “variable pricing program” which would price commissary goods “in response to market conditions and customer demand”
- Allows the Secretary of Defense is allowed to waive collections of overpayments to military service members if the collection starts over 10 years after the overpayment occurred.
- The Defense Department will conduct a review of the bonuses paid to California National Guard members from 2004 – 2015, determine how many bonuses were awarded improperly, and determine which ones will be granted a repayment waiver.
- Waivers will be denied only if the board can make an affirmative determination that the member “knew or reasonably should have known that the member was ineligible for the bonus pay”
Title VII—Health Care Provisions
- Creates TRICARE Select: “Eligible beneficiaries will not have restrictions on the freedom of choice of the beneficiary with respect to health care providers.”
- Cost sharing table
Title VIII—Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters
- Exempts the purchase of “commercial items” from a bunch of procurement laws
- Prohibits defense agencies from entering into contracts for services that are NOT commercial services, unless it’s determined in writing that there are no commercial services available.
Subtitle G—Industrial Base Matters
- Orders a written plan to be completed by the end of 2017 to” reduce the barriers to the seamless integration between the persons and organizations that comprise the national technology and industrial base”
- Entities to be “integrated” include government entities, universities, nonprofits, and private contractors (including weapons manufacturers) operating in the United States, Canada and (added) the UK, Northern Ireland, and Australia.
Title IX—Department of Defense Organization and Management
- Repeals the requirement that the Secretary of Defense have policies and procedures to determine the most appropriate cost efficient mix of military, civilians, and contractor personnel to perform the mission of the Dept. of Defense.
Title X—General Provisions
- “The Secretary of Defense may provide support for the counter drug activities… of any department or agency of the Federal Government or of any State, local, tribal, or foreign law enforcement agency for…:
- “Training of law enforcement personnel of the Federal Government, of State, local, and tribal governments…”
- “Intelligence analysis services”
- “Aerial and ground reconnaissance”
- Extended through 2019
- Specifically prohibits transferring anyone to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen.
Subtitle G—Other Matters
- Secretary of Defense needs to post the costs of each the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria wars onto a public website. No due date or web address.
Title XII—Matters relating to foreign nations
- Authorizes the amount of money appropriated to the fund to more than double, from $1.07 billion to $2.5 billion.
- $500 million must be to purchase precision guided munitions for partner and allied forces
- The Defense Secretary is allowed to spend $100 million per year to “support foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism”
- The money will come from the money appropriated for operations and maintenance
- Repeals a provision from the 2005 NDAA that provided $25 million a year for this purpose
- The United States can use $1.1 billion to pay any country that helps our military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the United States can pay Pakistan for “activities meant to enhance the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and for counterterrorism”
- Extends the authority to “provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition” until December 31, 2018.
- State Dept: “Countering the proliferation of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems is a top U.S. national security priority. In the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS – also known as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles – pose a serious threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world. The United States is working closely with numerous countries and international organizations to keep the skies safe for all.”
- The 2015 NDAA authorized the transfer of “man-portable air defense system” or “MANPADs” to the “vetted Syrian opposition”.
- They are allowed to continue to do so after a 30-day waiting period if a report is submitted to Congress
- Amends Section 1251 of the 2016 NDAA to extend the authority to pay to train “national security forces” in “multilateral exercises” through 2018.
- Adds the European Reassurance Initiative to the list of authorized activities, although it has been renamed the “European Deterrence Initiative”
- This training is allowed to go to NATO countries and “countries that are a signatory to the Partnership for Peace Framework Documents, but not a member of NATO”
- Increases the amount allowed to be spent on “security assistance” to Ukraine by $50 million, up to $350 million
- $175 million will be withheld until the Secretary of State certifies that Ukraine has taken steps towards reforms including civilian control of their military and “potential opportunities for privatization in the defense industrial sector”
- Repeals the authorization from the 2012 NDAA that allowed civilian employees of the DoD to be “advisors” to foreign defense ministries
- Inserts a new chapter into law outlining procedures for training and equipping foreign militaries
- The training can be for the following purposes:
- Counter weapons of mass destruction
- Counter-drug trafficking operations
- Counter organized crime
- Border security
- “Operations or activities that contribute to an international coalition operation that is determined by the Secretary to be in the national interest of the United States”
- Repeals the law that authorizes programs only for counter-terrorism, support of on-going military operations, and border security.
- The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State will develop and plan train and equip programs together
- The Secretary of Defense is allowed to change the definition of “developing country” “from time to time”
- The Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency will be responsible for “all security cooperation programs”
- The train and equip programs are authorized to provide “defense articles”, training, “defense services”, supplies, and construction valued under $750,000 per project.
- The “support” programs are limited to five years unless a written justification for extending it is provided or if funding is shifted to another part of the government or another country.
- 2017 Funding: Will come from:
- The Operations and Maintenance account, the “defense-wide” section and “Defense Security Cooperation” section = $6.6 billion + $621 million = $7.2 billion
- Funds for “Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, Defense-Wide” = $720 million
- Funds for “Operations and Maintenance, Defense-wide, for overseas contingency operations” and money for the “Defense Security Cooperation Agency” = $7.1 billion
- Money appropriated for the “Counter-ISIL fund” in Iraq and Syria can be spent in countries other than Iraq and Syria as long as Congress is told = $1.1 billion
- Funds for “Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, Defense-Wide for overseas contingency operations” = $191 million + $24 million = $215 million
- Money made available in previous years = unknown
- Total = At least $16.3 billion
- The Secretaries of Defense and State can enter an agreement to swap “support” to each other’s departments during and up to two years after any “contingency operation”
- “Support” = food, transportation, petroleum, oils, communication services, medical services, ammunition, base operations support, use of facilities, spare parts, and maintenance services.
- Prohibits any funds being used to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which is a 2013 UN treaty designed to regulate and limit the international weapons trade. We signed it in September.
- By mid-June 2017, the Department of State will create a Global Engagement Center
- Purpose: “To lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests”
- Track and evaluate stories abroad that threaten the interests of the US and the US allies and partner nations.
- Support the creation and distribution of “fact-based narratives” to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at the United States, our allies, and partner nations.
- Promote “fact-based narratives” to audiences outside the United States
- The head of the Global Engagement Center will be appointed by the President
- Any Federal Government employee may be assigned to the Global Engagement Center for a maximum of three years.
- The State Department can hire domestic and foreign contractors to work for the Global Engagement Center for a maximum of four years each, with a maximum of 50 employees
- The Global Engagement Center can pay (“provide grants”) to “civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions” to:
- Collect and store examples in print, online, and on social media of disinformation and propaganda directed at the US, its allies, and partners.
- To “counter efforts” to use information to influence the policies and stability of the United States, it’s allies and partner nations.
- The Global Engagement Center will end in December 2024 (8 years after enactment)
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is a global media agency tasked with “informing” other countries in a way that pursues US national interests (aka: our propaganda networks). BBG networks include:
- Voice of America
- Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
- Office of Cuba Broadcasting
- Radio Free Asia
- Middle East Broadcasting Networks
- The head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors will be a Chief Executive Officer, appointed by the President, instead of a Director who has been appointed by the Board.
- Extends immunity from civil liability to all board members at Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, or “any organization that consolidates such entities”
- The 2016 NDAA authorized $150 million per year for each Jordan and Lebanon for border security “support”
- This provision adds Egypt and Tunisia to the list of counties eligible for “support” funding
- The money is authorized until the end of 2019
- Detailed procedures for court martial cases
- A list of all the offenses eligible for a court martial
- Executive Order: Presidential Determination and Waiver – Pursuant to Section 2249a of Title 10, United States Code, and Sections 40 and 40A of the Arms Export Control Act to Support U.S. Special Operations to Combat Terrorism in Syria, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, December 8, 2016
Sound Clip Sources
- General Jack Keane
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 27:30 General Jack Keane: Partnering for training and military education is essential to raise the level of operational competence. There is no substitute for an effective ground force supported by air power. Air power is an enabler; it is not a defeat mechanism. This is about alliance members providing the predominant military response. It’s not the United States military. The United States military would provide a certain level of support.
Hearing: U.S. Policy and Russian Involvement in Syria, House Foreign Affairs Committee, November 4, 2015,
- Anne W. Patterson
- Assistant Secretary Department of State->Near Eastern Affairs
- Ambassador to Columbia during Bush years
- Ran the drug war for Bush in 2005
- Ambassador to Pakistan Bush/Obama
- Ambassador to Egypt right after the “uprising”
Timestamps & Transcripts
16:40 Anne Patterson: We are pursuing four interlinked goals: (1) to defeat ISIS militarily in both Syria and Iraq, (2) to develop a political transition that gives Syria a future without Bashar al-Assad, (3) to ease the suffering of the Syrian people, and (4) to stabilize our allies as they cope with massive refugee outflows.
36:44 Anne Patterson: Patterson: The idea is to have a transitional government, to work on a time table for Assad’s departure—and let me be clear that that’s a critical element of this policy—and then to work on constitutional review, and, ultimately, an election in Syria. That’s the basic outlines of Secretary Kerry’s strategy. Rep. Karen Bass: So, at this point, if there were to be a transitional government, who do you see composing that? Anne Patterson: Well, a number of opposition figures and people already on the ground. It would be key—and this was in the communiqué—that Syria’s institutions—the military, intelligence, police, civil service—would remain intact, so you wouldn’t have a total collapse of state authority. The idea is just to remove Bashar Assad… Rep. Bass: Like that happened in Iraq? Patterson: …and his cronies from power.
1:30:50 Anne Patterson: The president and certainly the secretary has said many times that Assad’s departure is absolutely critical to any future in Syria.
1:32:45 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Those allies, do they see Assad’s removal from power as imperative to deal with this situation? Anne Patterson: Currently, our European allies, our Gulf allies, and Turkey do see that. They’re absolutely determined that he will not remain in power.
1:47:30 Anne Patterson: There’s broad consensus in the international community that these institutions in Syria would remain intact—the intelligence; the military; the police; the civil service; the ministerial structures, like health structures; and that the goal is to remove Bashar al-Assad and his closest advisors and have this political process that would lead to a new government.
1:56:10 Anne Patterson: Let me stress that that is our goal, to get Assad out.
Press Conference: Arms Trade Treaty, US State Department, September 25, 2013
- Secretary of State John Kerry: What this treaty does is simple: It helps lift other countries up to the highest standards. It requires other countries to create and enforce the kind of strict national export controls that the United States already has in place.
Article: Rex Tillerson's Company Exxon, Has Billions at Stake Over Sanctions on Russia by Andrew Kramer and Clifford Krauss, New York Times, December 12, 2016.
Article: Adding 200 more troops to Syria, U.S. deepens involvement by Robert Burns, Associated Press, December 10, 2016.
Press Release: Senate Passes Major Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill as Part of NDAA, Senator Rob Portman, December 8, 2016.
Article: Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste by Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post, December 5, 2016.
Article: Congress authorizes Trump to arm Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles by Julian Pecquet, Al-Monitor, December 2, 2016.
Article: U.S. arms export boom under Obama seen continuing with Trump by Mike Stone and patricia Zengerie, Reuters, November 9, 2016.
Report: Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response by Carla E. Humud, Christopher Blanchard, and Mary Beth Nikitin, Congressional Research Service, September 28, 2016.
Article: How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands. by C.J. Chivers, New York Times Magazine, August 24, 2016.
Blog Post: Resurrecting the Special Defense Acquistition Fund (SDAF) and Why It Matters to You by Todd Dudley, LinkedIn, February 23, 2016.
State Department Cable: "The best way to help Israel with Iran's growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad", author unknown, November 30, 2015.
Report: The Defense Business Board's 2015 study on how the Pentagon could save $125 billion, January 22, 2015.
Article: Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern by Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian, August 30, 2013.
Article: U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans by John Hudson, The Cable, July 14, 2013.
Bill provision: Section 1078: Dissemination abroad of information about the United States, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
Article: Iraq, Iran, Syria Sign $10 Billion Gas-Pipeline Dead by Hassan Hafidh and Beniot Faucon, The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2011.
Article: The Redirection: Is the Administration's new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism? by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, March 5, 2007.
Webpage: Arms Trade Treaty, US Department of State
Webpage: Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go, National Priorities Project
- Document: S. 2943: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 summary, House Armed Services Committee, December 2017.
Music Presented in This Episode
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