Chairman John Culberson Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 2216, the Fiscal Year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill
June 4, 2013 -
The fiscal 2014 Appropriations bill for Military Construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs meets the needs of the Departments while saving money. Mr. Bishop and I worked together to ensure that this is a bipartisan bill and I would like to thank him for his hard work and dedication throughout this process. It has also been a great pleasure to work with Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey – they are equally committed to ensuring that our military, our veterans, and their families have what they need and have earned as a result of the sacrifices that they have made for our freedom.
The bill includes $73.3 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.4 billion above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $1.4 billion less than the budget request. It is important to note that the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill included a fiscal year 2014 advance appropriation for the VA medical accounts that was $1.9 billion more than fiscal year 2013 – and that this increase needed to be absorbed within our allocation.
The funding provided continues our longstanding tradition of bipartisan support of our military, our veterans, and their families. However, despite years of providing substantial increases to the Department of Veterans Affairs, funds have languished as a result of construction delays, the claims backlog grows at an astounding rate, and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are, once again, back to square one in the development of a joint electronic health record. So the bill also sends a clear message that this state of affairs is unacceptable – and that our veterans deserve to receive the benefits that they need and have earned in a timely, efficient manner. Therefore, while this bill continues to support these activities, it also increases oversight of them.
I have said many times at the hearings this year that our warfighters should not have the added burden of concerns over the quality of life that their families experience while they are away. So – this bill fully funds the budget request for school construction and the family housing program. However, particularly now, as our debt continues to grow at a deplorable rate, we must rigorously review all activities that our government funds. Therefore, this bill does not include funding for ten military construction projects that lacked sufficient justification, reduces funding for six projects, and rescinds $659 million in prior year funding.
I think this is a bill that we can be proud of and I urge you to support it.
(As Prepared For Delivery)