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Appropriations Subcommittee Approves Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Funding Bill

, July 14, 2010

Appropriations Subcommittee Approves Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Funding Bill
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans affairs (MilCon-VA) today approved funding legislation for the next fiscal year. The legislation includes a total of $141.1 billion in both mandatory and discretionary funding for these agencies, an increase of $5.3 billion over last year.
 
Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis, along with Subcommittee Ranking Member Zach Wamp and the other Republican members of the subcommittee expressed their general support for the legislation. However, they noted that Congress still has not approved a long-awaited emergency troop funding bill that has been delayed for over five months and manipulated by Democrats for political purposes to pass billions in extraneous spending and bailouts. 
 
“Our veterans and the men and women of our military have dedicated themselves to the service of our country, the safety and freedom of all Americans, and the effort to maintain our nation as the strongest in the world. They deserve the highest quality of care and service that we can provide,” Lewis said, “That is why the long-awaited supplemental bill is urgently needed, and that is why it is a shame that Democrat leaders continue to play political games with this critical troop funding legislation.”
 
Lewis stated that while troops wait even longer for an emergency supplemental, it is important to continue to move forward with the regular Appropriations process, including the MilCon-VA bill.
 
“We must be focused on fulfilling our commitment to our troops and veterans, and ensure that they have the resources they need both before and after they leave active duty,” Lewis said.
 
While supporting the MilCon-VA bill, Lewis and Wamp also expressed concerns with several provisions in the legislation, including large funding levels for problem-plagued technology programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
 
“As we provide for our troops and veterans, we also have a responsibility to keep a close eye on taxpayer dollars. Throwing more and more government spending at chronically flawed programs will unnecessary waste precious tax-dollars, and will ultimately be detrimental to our troops or veterans,” Lewis said.
 
“The greatest privilege of my professional life is to serve those who have served, and are serving in the uniform of our Armed Forces. Through the MilCon-VA Subcommittee, we can make sure that that the promises made to our veterans are being kept and that the quality of life for those serving is as good as possible,” said Wamp. “At the same time, we have to make sure that federal funds are not wasted, which is why the amendments offered were intended to protect taxpayer dollars.”
 
Republicans amendments to the MilCon-VA bill in subcommittee included:
 
1.)    Subcommittee Ranking Member Wamp (R-TN) offered an amendment to increase funding for the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase investigation efforts in a variety of low-performing programs, including IT systems development and implementation. The funding is offset by a cut to the IT account, which is projected to have nearly $1.7 billion in unspent funds at the end of the next fiscal year.
 
The amendment was accepted by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
2.)    Rep. Crenshaw (R-FL) offered an amendment to increase funding in the bill for claims processors for the post 9/11 GI Bill program by $14 million. The bill had proposed to cut over 300 claims processors, even though the program has already suffered understaffing which has led to extensive overtime costs, processing delays, and morale difficulties at the VA. In addition, the automated system that was intended to relieve the administrative strain has been delayed, and there is no evidence that it will be ready before the approaching fall application season. The increase in funding is offset by a reduction in the IT program.
 
The amendment was accepted by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
3.)    Rep. Young (R-FL) offered an amendment to require clear reporting requirements, including benchmarks and details of actions taken, related to the Total Cemetery Management System at Arlington National Cemetery. The bill requires a report on the proposed development and implementation of the system, which is intended to help address the cemetery’s severe administrative problems recently reported in the media. The amendment provides specific direction and clarification on what the report should include.
 
The amendment was accepted by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
4.)    Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA) offered an amendment to withhold a $467,000 increase in the legislation to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) until the spending can be properly justified by the agency. The funds would ostensibly be used to expand a web-based monument virtual tour system, but the funding has not been requested by the Administration, nor has the Committee received any justification as to the need for this program. The amendment will require the ABMC to submit a detailed spending plan for the program expansion before any of these funds can be spent.
 
The amendment was accepted by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.

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