Rep. Neal announced that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed him as a conferee to reconcile the final version of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)*. This is an appropriate time to review the representative’s record on defense spending, and it is not a pretty picture. Rep. Neal’s long tenure in Congress has resulted in his support for massive increases in defense spending and a bloated Pentagon budget. “It seems clear that Rep. Neal has not heeded President Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961, warning about the threat posed by the ‘military-industrial complex,’” said Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, Neal’s challenger in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary.
Beginning in 1989, Rep. Neal has voted for the annual National Defense Authorization Act (as either the House bill or the conference report) a total of 21 times, while opposing it only seven times. Rep. Neal has voted for the annual Defense Appropriations Act (as either the House bill or the conference report) a total of 21 times, while casting a no vote on only eight occasions. Many of these bills contained spending far above what the Department of Defense needed or what various presidents requested. In 2011, Rep. Neal even voted against an amendment to prohibit the Defense Department from using tens of millions of taxpayer funds for NASCAR race car sponsorships.
More troubling is Rep. Neal’s acceptance of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from major defense contractors who have ripped off taxpayers on numerous instances of misconduct ranging from overbilling and overcharging to contract fraud and other violations of federal law. Since 1990, Rep. Neal has taken $303,500 in political action committee checks from six of the top 12 defense contractors who have committed 269 instances of misconduct since 1995 and paid penalties of more than $4.6 billion (see graphic). For these firms, the fines are just another cost of doing business.
“We need a strong national defense. As a member of the House, I will support funding defense without the waste, fraud, and abuse that has become all too common and acceptable,” said Amatul-Wadud. “Something is terribly wrong when both the Government Accountability Office and the DoD inspector general are saying that the billions we are spending each fiscal year at DoD have become un-auditable,” she concluded.
Rep. Neal has also supported putting taxpayers on the hook to finance U.S. arms sales to foreign nations by placing the full backing of the government behind unlimited amounts of commercial loans for weapons exports, while opposing an amendment to prevent U.S. firms from exporting supercomputers to countries such as China which possess nuclear weapons technology.
In 1995, Rep. Neal voted against an amendment to strike from the Fiscal 1996 Defense Authorization bill provisions that establish a new Defense Export Loan Guarantee Program, which would guarantee private sector loans for the purchase of weapons and other defense articles by U.S. allies. The Clinton administration opposed the new loan guarantees calling them “unnecessary”, because taxpayers would be liable for repayment of the principal and interest in case of default. Between 1990-1994, the U.S., already the world’s No. 1 arms dealer, had written off $9 billion in military loans.
In 1997, Rep. Neal voted against an amendment to the FY 1998 National Defense Authorization Act to prevent U.S. companies from exporting supercomputers to countries such as China that possess nuclear weapons technology. The measure was designed to fix a serious national security problem caused by the Clinton administration’s 1996 decision to decontrol the export of supercomputers that can help other countries design, build and test nuclear weapons. Supporters of the amendment noted that at least 47 supercomputers were sold to China and some of those were under the control of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is involved in missile research and nuclear weapons development.
“We should not be making the world a more dangerous place by encouraging the spread of deadly weapons through loan guarantees or sending supercomputing technology to nations where the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a real concern. Now more than ever we have to prioritize our security while investing wisely in defense. The status quo continues to fail us,” said Amatul-Wadud.
*(Neal.house.gov July 3, 2018)