July 18, 2012
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 5856, the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill.
This essential bill provides more than $519 billion dollars in critical resources for a strong national defense, supporting our warfighters and protecting the American people. This is an increase of $1.1 billion over last year and more than $3 billion more than the President’s request. This is also more than $8 billion over what the Senate Democrats would like to provide.
This nation – with all the opportunities it provides and the rights it grants – would not be the bastion of freedom it is without the greatest defense system in the world. Freedom isn’t free. As we continue to face threats to our safety and way of life, we must deal with the costs of war, keep our military at the ready, and stay constantly vigilant.
This bill supports and takes care of our troops at the highest level possible, providing a 1.7% pay raise. We have also increased the critical health and benefits programs our troops deserve, providing $35.1 billion for health and family programs, including funding for traumatic brain injury research and suicide prevention outreach programs.
This legislation keeps America at the forefront of defense technologies by continuing research and development efforts. We boost key training and readiness programs to prepare our troops for combat and peace-time missions with an increase of $12.1 billion for operations and maintenance. We also enhance our military arsenal with $102.5 billion for equipment and upgrades. And we continue fighting the Global War on Terror by including $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
But in this environment of fiscal austerity, the Committee recognized that even the Pentagon should not have carte blanche when it comes to discretionary spending. We increased oversight and took a balanced approach to budgeting. Common-sense decisions were made to save tax dollars wherever possible, including rescinding unused, prior-year funds and terminating unnecessary programs like the Medium Extended Air Defense System. But we can guarantee that none of these cuts will affect the safety or success of our troops and missions.
The bill also prohibits funding for the transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories, prohibits funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees, and places strict conditions on the release of detainees – all provisions that were authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act.
I want to take a moment now to recognize the Appropriations Committee’s Ranking Member Mr. Dicks, who also serves as Ranking Member of the Defense Subcommittee. He has been a formidable servant of the American people, and a dedicated usher of Appropriations dollars.
I also want to thank Jerry Lewis, who has been a member and a chairman of the Defense Subcommittee and the Full Committee, for his years of service to the Appropriations process and this Congress. We are sorry to lose the expertise, leadership, and friendship of these two gentlemen when they retire at the end of this year, but we wish them well in their next pursuits in life. The Appropriations Committee has been made stronger, and more responsive, responsible, and respectful thanks to these two upstanding legislators and appropriators.
At this time, I also would like to thank the staff on both the majority and minority sides for their hard-work on this extremely important bill. Their many hours and capable hands have crafted a successful, bipartisan bill that we can be proud to support.
Mr. Chairman, this is must-pass legislation vital to the security of our homeland and the safety and health of our troops and veterans. I urge my colleagues to support this great nation and approve this Appropriations bill.