July 10, 2009
House Approves $76.5 Billion for U.S. Military and Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House today passed the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations legislation. The bill contains a total of $76.5 billion, which is a 5% increase over last year and $239 million over the President’s request for these programs.
The bill provides critical funding for military construction, housing for our troops and their families, military quality of life programs, and the full requested funding for Veterans Affairs programs. Included in this funding is a $200 million increase to address unfunded requirements for the Army and Air National Guard, and for the reserve forces of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, and the President’s full request of $7.5 billion to continue the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 process.
However, while supporting the legislation, House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis also expressed concerns with the management of the funding by the VA and other agencies. The VA has a history of a slow rate of spending, which hinders progress in important programs. For example, the VA’s multi-billion dollar major construction account has only spent $1.9 billion out of the $4.4 billion it was appropriated between FY 2005 and FY 2008. In addition, the VA’s Information Technology (IT) program was criticized by the Government Accountability Office and the Veterans’ Affairs IG because of its inability to effectively manage its resources, and reports indicate that there are a number of IT programs that are more than 13 months behind schedule and more than 50 percent over budget.
“Taking care of our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and their families is our upmost responsibility. With everything they have and are doing to keep us safe and promote American freedom and democracy abroad, the least we can do is make sure that they are properly provided for. This bill does that… plus some,” Lewis said. “We will continue to work to ensure this funding is spent in the best and most efficient way so that those who have sacrificed for our country get the most benefit from every single tax-dollar.”
However, while supporting the bill, Lewis and House Republicans objected to the process by which the bill was considered on the House floor. Like the six other Appropriations bills considered so far this year, this legislation was considered under an unprecedented “closed rule” – which meant that Members of Congress were unable to offer amendments to the legislation on the floor. This highly objectionable practice is counter to decades of precedent and traditional practices for Appropriations bills. Democrat leaders claim the expedited process is necessary to complete the House’s work before the August recess – an arbitrary and self-imposed deadline.