Subcommittee Chairman Culberson Presents FY 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill on the House Floor
May 31, 2012 -
I know that my colleagues feel the same way I do that one of the most gratifying, most rewarding parts of this extraordinary job that we're entrusted with in addition to being guardians of the Treasury, to being good stewards of the public's business, is to do everything in our power to help ensure that our men and women in uniform have all that they need to do their job as they stand guard and over this Nation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in every scary, dark corner of the world.
Today, Madam Chair, it's my privilege, with my good friend from Georgia (Mr. Bishop), to lay before the House and ask for its approval the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for 2013.
On our committee, we feel as though we are the peace of mind committee for the United States military. We want to ensure in the work that we do in the Military Construction and in Veterans Affairs that we have done everything we can to ensure that our men and women in uniform don't have any worries, that they don't have to worry about when they are in uniform; they don't have to worry about the quality of their barracks, their living conditions; they don't have to worry about the condition of the military facilities that they are living and working in.
We want to make sure that they have got everything that they need. The United States Navy, when it comes to piers or sub pens, or the Air Force for runways, or the Marine Corps or for the Army, we have done everything in this bill that the Pentagon has asked us to do and fully funded it in a way that's fiscally responsible, Madam Chair.
We have also taken care of our veterans, of our men and women in uniform when they leave the Armed Forces and become veterans, because they will spend most of their time out of the military, and we wanted to be sure that our Veterans Affairs Administration was fully funded, that they have got all the resources that they need in order to take care of our men's and women's health care needs, psychological and physical, and in a way that's fiscally responsible.
In this environment, Madam Chair, in this era of record debt and deficit, our subcommittee, along with the full Appropriations Committee, has done everything in our power to find ways to save money, to be good stewards of the public's precious, hard-earned tax dollars. And in our subcommittee, something we have done together in a bipartisan way, arm-in-arm, we have made sure to ferret out every unspent dollar from previous years that could be returned to taxpayers, to avoid spending increases while making sure that our men and women in uniform are taken care of while they are in uniform and also, as I say, when they leave active duty and become veterans under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We have, because of decreases, Madam Chair, of the Air Force, the Army, the Pentagon, our Armed Forces are reassessing their deployment needs around the world. We've seen a reduction this year in the level of spending requests for military construction around the world that enabled us to increase spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs while holding overall spending for this bill flat. That reflects not only our finding cost savings in various parts of the bill, but, in particular, the Air Force, among the branches of the service, asked for significantly less money this year.
But we have also taken into account in our legislation the pay freeze that is in place for the entire Federal Government. We have applied that to Federal civilian contractors working in the military construction field or for the VA.
We have also, Madam Chair, in our legislation, made sure that the VA uses their construction funds within 5 years. In the past, they simply could hold that money year after year after year; and we want to make sure that that money is used for the purpose that Congress intended it, and that is to build VA facilities.
We have been able to find savings in a variety of other areas, Madam Chair, all of which have permitted us to fully fund the request of the Pentagon in giving our Armed Forces around the world everything that they need to do their job without a worry in the world. If they are out there on watch, guarding the United States of America and protecting our liberty, our committee has made sure to give them as much peace of mind as possible.
Two other things I want to make sure to bring to the Members' attention that is extremely important.
At the Veterans Administration, for years there's been an effort to get a combined medical record. When you're in uniform, on active duty, you have got one set of medical records with the Department of Defense. Then when you enter the Veterans Administration, that medical record is not compatible with the computer systems or their recordkeeping systems at the Veterans Administration, which causes terrible inefficiencies and threatens lives, endangers the health of our men and women in uniform.
This committee has taken very seriously the task that Chairman Rogers has charged us with to ensure that we move the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration as rapidly as possible to a unified medical record. Then when our young men and women leave the active duty service, that medical record stays with them in the VA.