William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Floor Speech

Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Defense Veterans


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the amendment offered by Representatives McAdams, Titus, Horsford and myself.

Mr. Speaker, on July 16th, 75 years ago at 5:29 a.m., the first ever nuclear explosion burned across the skies of New Mexico, changing the world forever.

The Trinity Test was certainly an astonishing moment. When the bomb, called the Gadget, detonated, the observing scientists experienced the literal definition of shock and awe.

A great deal has happened since that first test of an atomic bomb. The United States is the only nation to have used nuclear bombs against a foreign nation. The U.S. carried out tests for several decades, ending them only in 1992.

During those years, nuclear testing killed or sickened thousands of military personnel who were involved in the detonations, as well the people who lived downrange from U.S. test sites, including tens of thousands in the continental United States. These communities are still dealing with the devastating legacy of nuclear testing decades after the U.S. conducted its last nuclear test in 1992. The responsible step for Congress would be to extend and expand the Radiation Effects Compensation Act (RECA) rather than to endorse talk of resuming U.S. nuclear testing, which would dishonor the experiences of downwinders and atomic veterans.

The United States established a blue-ribbon panel to investigate what had happened to our atomic veterans, resulting in public apologies by Presidents H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush and special reparations and health program by the Departments of Justice and Veterans Affairs. I would like to thank Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry for including in the underlying bill, H.R. 6395, a provision to honor our Atomic Veterans with a service medal, and I urge them to fight to include this provision in the final conference report of the NDAA later this year.

For more than a quarter-century, the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program has worked extraordinarily well in ensuring the reliability of the existing nuclear warhead types in the U.S. arsenal. The overwhelming majority of the past U.S. nuclear test explosions were for ``weapons development'' and ``weapons effects'' purposes. There is simply no technical reason to resume testing now, nor in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Speaker, resuming U.S. testing would violate the global taboo against nuclear testing established by the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As one of the 184 signatories of the CTBT, the United States has a legal obligation not to take actions that violate the object and purpose of the treaty, which is to prohibit nuclear test explosions, no matter what the yield. Renewed testing by the U.S. would undermine global support for operating and maintaining the treaty's International Monitoring System, which the United States itself depends upon to help monitor other states' compliance with the nuclear test ban.

The McAdams-Titus amendment is right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. And it is the moral and humane thing to do.

For these and so many other reasons, I urge all my colleagues to support the McAdams amendment.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of Amendment No. 5 offered by the gentlelady from Minnesota, Congresswoman Omar, to establish a policy framework for the accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. I thank Congresswoman Omar for her leadership on this and so many other critical foreign and defense policy issues.

Mr. Speaker, in October of this year, the United States will have been engaged in the Afghanistan conflict for 19 years. That's 19 years of war, Mr. Speaker. Nineteen years of terrible losses of life--among our brave troops and servicemembers, our coalition partners, humanitarian and other development aid workers, and most of all, among the people of Afghanistan who have suffered the highest death toll.

The numbers of deaths and injuries are chilling: nearly 2400 U.S. military have died; over 20,000 have been wounded; and over 1700 U.S. contractors have lost their lives in Afghanistan. For the Afghan people, the war has been devastating: over 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded over the course of this war. According to the United Nations, whose figures are considered conservative, for each of the past six years, Afghan civilians have suffered over 10,000 casualties annually. Mr. Speaker, it is likely that every family in Afghanistan has suffered grave loss from this unending war.

It's been 19 years of devastation, Mr. Speaker. No one can assert that it would be a hasty or untimely moment to consider withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan. In fact, I believe that it is well past time for the United States to withdraw its forces, close the chapter on this war, and take meaningful steps to secure a stable peace.

This amendment calls for a long-term, inclusive peace process and strikes a section of the NDAA that would impose unduly onerous conditions on troop drawdown, essentially preventing any withdrawal and prolonging this endless war. A nearly identical amendment passed the House in 2013, 305-121, with overwhelming bipartisan support. That was an amendment offered by Congressman Adam Smith (WA), our late colleague Walter Jones of North Carolina, and me. If the House so overwhelmingly supported a withdrawal of troops in 2013, then why not today?

According to the ``Costs of War Project at Brown University,'' the United States has spent nearly $2 trillion on this war. To finance war spending, the United States has borrowed heavily and will pay more than $600 billion in interest on those loans through 2023. The rest of the debt will take years to repay.

In addition to the more than $2 trillion the U.S. government has already spent on the war, debt and medical costs will continue long into the future.

Mr. Speaker, I know that Afghanistan is in the midst of negotiations to end this conflict. The withdrawal of U.S. troops is a key element of securing that peace. Let us begin today to put that framework in place, begin the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops; and put an end to the longest war in U.S. history.

I urge all my colleagues to support the Omar Amendment No. 5.