Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 10, 2014
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Defense

Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I will enter into the Record at the end of my remarks the Joint Explanatory Statement prepared by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Mr. Speaker, when Mr. Ruppersberger and I assumed the helm of the committee, we committed to return to the practice of passing the annual intelligence authorization bill, recognizing that it is one of the most critical tools that Congress has to control the intelligence activities of the United States Government. I am proud today that we are bringing the fifth such authorization bill to the floor since Mr. Ruppersberger assumed the role of ranking member and I assumed the role of chairman 4 years ago.
As most of the intelligence budget involves highly classified programs, the bulk of the committee's direction is found in the classified annex to the bill, which is very similar to the version passed by the House earlier this year.

At an unclassified level, I can report that the classified annex increases the President's budget request by less than 1 percent and is consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Act funding caps. Key committee funding initiatives, vital to national security, are preserved in this bill. These funding initiatives are offset by reductions to unnecessary programs and increased efficiencies.

The bill's modest net increase reflects the committee's concern that the President's request does not properly fund a number of important initiatives and leaves several unacceptable shortfalls when it comes to the matters of national security. The bill also provides substantial intelligence resources to help defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Earlier this year, the House passed its version of this bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill contains all of the provisions that were not previously enacted into law in the fiscal year 2014 bill, along with provisions added by the Senate. None of these provisions are considered controversial, and we have worked through and vetted to make sure that is accurate with both Republican and Democrat staff and Members.

Mr. Speaker, we find ourselves in a very interesting time in history. ISIL is attempting to build a state across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iraq, including Syria, Jordan, and Israel. The group already controls a swath of land across Iraq and Syria about the size of the State of Indiana, and it is growing. The goal of our counterterrorism strategy is to deny safe haven from which terrorists can plot attacks against the United States and/or our allies. Regrettably, we have not prevented ISIL from establishing such a safe haven, and, as a result, we face a growing threat from that region.

At the same time, state actors like Russia and China view this time as an opportunity to expand their reach and expand their influence. Uneven leadership in recent years has emboldened these adversaries to change the international order, at the expense of U.S. interests.

We rightly demand that our intelligence agencies provide policymakers with the best and most timely information possible on the threats we face. We ask them to track terrorists wherever they train, plan, and fundraise. We ask them to stop devastating cyber attacks that steal American jobs through theft of intellectual property. We ask them to track nuclear and missile threats. We demand they get it right every time.

This bill will ensure that the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community have the funding and authorities and support that they need to meet their mission and to keep us safe.

I take this moment, Mr. Speaker, at a time when certainly voices both around the country and around the world are seeking to condemn the very courageous men and women who show up in the intelligence business to provide the information to keep America safe. They are silent warriors. They are faithful patriots. They don't ask for recognition. They don't ask for time. You don't see their names in the front pages of the paper or on TV. They really don't seek that recognition.

But they seek the very purpose of being the first to be able to develop that one piece of information that might prevent further conflict, it might prevent a terrorist attack, it might prevent a nuclear launch, it might prevent one Nation from attacking another.

In the haze of what seems to be self-loathing these days, by targeting that against these very courageous men and women who cannot defend themselves in public, we are doing a disservice to their courage and their commitment to keep America safe. We find that it is easy to, at some point, go back and point fingers at what we believe may or may not have happened in the work of keeping America safe. It is realistically and holistically unfair that we would do that to these very brave souls who risk their lives today.

But here is the good news for Americans. These folks that work in the shadows understand that they have accepted these dangerous and quiet roles, and they will get up this morning, like they have every other morning, and understand it is between them and the United States when it comes to any terrorist attack, or worse, bigger, broader conflict somewhere in the world.

So they will do their job; they will do their duty; they will do their mission. They will read the papers and fold them and put them on their desk and go about their work, their important work. But it is wrong that years later we ask these people to have to believe that they might have to get a lawyer to do their job.

The next time that America asks them to do something hard and difficult in defense of the United States, we shouldn't be giving them lawyers and subpoenas and the United Nations condemning their actions and looking for prosecutions in their effort to tear the United States down one more level. We ought to be giving them ticker tape parades when they come home from these places and say: Thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for your family's sacrifice. We can sleep better at night knowing that you have had the courage to stand where no other American was willing to stand in defense of the United States.

I hope they take this as certainly my final bill on this particular floor to encourage them to do their good work, to know that Americans who are kissing their kids and putting them on the bus this morning understand that it takes their efforts to keep this country safe, that somebody that shows up for work and is engaged in international commerce understands that it takes their work to keep America safe. Believe me, outside of this town, people across America understand the value and importance and really the essential work that these people do for the defense of America. We should not condemn them, we should be proud of their work, and we should stand behind them. This bill I think represents the work in a bipartisan way that allows them to continue that work, to do the work that protects America.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank my good friend Dutch Ruppersberger. Over the last 4 years, these five budgets could not have happened without your work and your staff's work in making sure that we had the best product available to make sure that the intelligence community had the resources that they need, the policies that they need, the support that they need, and, yes, every once in a while, the kick in the can that they needed.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thought I would take a moment to extend my thanks to all the dedicated staff on the committee, certainly from the Republican side and to the Democrats as well, who worked hard over the years to get us back on track in passing this annual authorization bill in our daily oversight of the intelligence community.

If you will indulge me, Mr. Speaker, thank you to my current committee staff: Darren Dick, Katie Wheelbarger, Sarah Geffroy, Andy Keiser, Bryan Smith, Ashley Lowry, Susan Phalen, Tom Corcoran, Michael Ellis, Chelsey Campbell, Geof Kahn, Brooke Eisele, Randy Smith, Jim Hildebrand, Shannon Stuart, Rachel Wilson, Lisa Major, and Diane Rinaldo.

Thank you as well to staff who have played an influential role in the committee activities during my tenure as chairman in reengaging this as a force for oversight in the Intelligence Committee: Michael Allen, Chris Donesa, Jamil Jaffer, Nathan Hauser, Todd Jones, Frank Garcia, George Pappas, Will Koella, Leah Scott, Fred Fleitz, and Stephanie Pelton.

Finally, a big thank you to our dedicated security and information technology staff, by the way, who have done well to beat back the hordes of our nation state actors who, for some reason, Mr. Speaker, took a good interest in what we were doing in that classified space, and they kept us up and running every single day: Brandon Smith, Kristin Jepson, and Kevin Klein.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank my friends on the other side of the aisle, from Dutch to Heather, and the whole entire team for putting this product together by putting our country first. It is very important.

I challenge every Member to read this material next year when it is announced that you can review the classified annex. Review the classified annex. I think they will have a better perspective at the huge number of challenges facing the United States when it comes to real threats developing around the world.

Mr. Speaker, I would again say thanks to all, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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