Turner Spells Out NDAA “Redlines” for HASC Republicans

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) outlined the three "redlines" that would cause Republicans to vote no on the 2020 defense authorization bill during a speech at the McAleese/Credit Suisse symposium in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2019. Photo from Turner's Facebook page.

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee consider themselves bipartisan, but won’t support the next National Defense Authorization Act if it includes certain prohibitions raised by the Democratic majority, Strategic Forces Subcommittee ranking member Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday.

Speaking at a McAleese/Credit Suisse symposium in Washington, D.C., Turner said Republican members of the HASC won’t vote for an NDAA if it contains any of three policy statements that are “redlines for us,” They are:

  • A “no first use” policy regarding nuclear weapons.

  • Any prohibitions on developing technology for space-based missile defense.

  • Doesn’t include funding for a low-yield nuclear weapon.

“I won’t vote for the NDAA” if it includes a “no first use” provision, Turner said, “and I know many other Republican members feel the same.” HASC chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has suggested such a policy may be put forward by the Democratic majority, Turner said, but such a move “unnecessarily limits” US flexibility.

Likewise, the US needs to have the flexibility to respond to Russia, which has said it will use low-yield nuclear weapons to achieve tactical goals, and so the US must have something similar. “It would be dangerous … if we restricted our capabilities,” he said.

Finally, Turner said he recognizes there is sentiment about keeping weapons out of space, but “We don’t have to have the debate on militarization of space … today.” What Republicans want is to allow the Pentagon to do the necessary research on space-based missile defense and obtain “knowledge.” Whether adversaries deploy such systems will have a big effect on whether the US moves forward with them, he said.

“We can’t start trying to seek knowledge at the point the adversaries have presented to us a vulnerability,” Turner argued. “In this … funding cycle, we’ll be looking to support research and development and an understanding of what would it take and what would be the opportunities if we did.”

Turner said the HASC has traditionally been one of the most bipartisan committees on Capitol Hill. Democrat and GOP members work collegially with staffers from the other side of the aisle to produce the NDAA, which Turner said only rarely draws a “no” vote, and then, only if “something strange” is included in it. He said he hopes the tradition of bipartisanship will continue. He also noted that many of the committee members on the Democratic side are new to Congress, and he said they have expressed conservative opinions about defense.