July 24, 2018

Young, Shaheen Successfully Include Yemen Provision in NDAA Conference Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) announced today that the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report includes their Yemen provision (Section 1290). The provision included in the Conference Report is nearly identical to the version passed by the Senate, but adds the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the certification requirement. The legislation — which would represent one of the more substantive actions by Congress in years related to Yemen — seeks to end the civil war in Yemen, protect civilians, and address the world’s largest humanitarian disaster where approximately eight million people are at risk of famine.  

In a joint statement, Senators Young and Shaheen said, “Both our national security interests and our humanitarian principles require that the United States use its influence to persuade Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to pursue an urgent diplomatic solution to end the civil war, protect civilians, and ensure the unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance. The inclusion of our provision in this final version of the defense bill sends an unambiguous signal regarding Congress’s expectations for policy in Yemen. We are pleased that Senate and House negotiators agreed that our provision should be included in the Conference Report, and we look forward to voting for its final passage, sending it to the President for signature, and holding all parties accountable.” 

In addition to an ISIS presence, Yemen is the headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is widely viewed as al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate. Many experts believe the longer the conflict continues, and the worse the humanitarian crisis grows, the more opportunities Iran and Sunni terrorist organizations will have to recruit militants and terrorists to threaten Americans, our allies, and our interests. A hearing that Senator Young convened earlier this year explored the connection between food insecurity and national security

 The provision requires the Secretary of State to certify that the governments of Saudi Arabia and UAE are undertaking a number of actions. If the Secretary of State cannot make these repeated, written, and unclassified certifications, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions exclusively focused on the civil war.  The legislation includes a national security waiver the administration could utilize. However, that waiver could only be utilized after the administration first identifies, in writing, why the certification cannot be made and what steps the administration plans to take to bring the Saudi and UAE governments into compliance. The provision also includes a detailed requirement for Yemen-related briefings to Congress and requires the administration to submit to Congress a strategy for Yemen. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) passed the Young-Shaheen legislation on May 22, and they subsequently worked to include the provision in the NDAA passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and then the full Senate. The Conference Report represents the outcome of negotiations between Senate and House negotiators. The House of Representatives and the Senate will consider the legislation in the coming days or weeks. 

Senators Young and Shaheen are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Shaheen is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.