June 18, 2014
Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen gave the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 4870, the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill:
"As we begin consideration of this important legislation, I want to pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces – all volunteers. They deserve our heartfelt thanks for their dedicated service and the sacrifices of their families. And everything we do over the next few days should be dedicated to them.
"My Colleagues, the fiscal year 2015 Department of Defense appropriations bill was reported out unanimously by the full Appropriations Committee on June 10.
"This recommendation is the product of countless staff hours, 10 official briefings, and 13 hearings.
"Most of our hearings related to assuring success and reducing risk for our warfighters and their mission.
"It is worth noting that one of these hearings was exclusively dedicated to taking testimony from members of the House on their views, opinions and priorities for this year’s defense appropriations bill.
"I want to thank those members who took the time to inform and educate the committee, as well as other members who made specific requests.
"At the outset, I would also like to thank Chairman Hal Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey for their support of the committee’s work. As they know, this bill is the product of a bipartisan and cooperative effort, for which I thank my good friend, the Ranking Member, Pete Visclosky. He has been a valuable partner throughout this whole process. And thanks to all members and our incredible staff!
"The base funding recommendation is $491 billion, which is $202 million above the President’s request and $4.1 billion above last year’s enacted level.
"As many members are aware, the Committee has not yet received the President’s recommendation for Overseas Contingency Operations – the OCO budget - so we are forced to include a $79.4 billion “placeholder” in this legislation.
"Our Committee operates in a completely transparent and accountable manner, so clearly, this is not the way we wanted to proceed to the floor – with no details, with no context, with no facts for those accounts.
"We have pressed Administration officials at every opportunity (I spoke to Secretary Hagel as recently as last Thursday) to get us an OCO plan.
"The Administration has told us for months that it is finalizing its plans for the “enduring U.S. military presence in Afghanistan” which will have a serious impact on the size of that funding request.
"Well, three weeks ago, the President announced his plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beyond this year. The Army and Marines already have closed down bases and removed tons of equipment. Still we have NO request and are forced to “debate” a placeholder of nearly $80 billion!
"While the Afghan Presidential elections are still unsettled, the leading candidates support the Bilateral Security Agreement.
"So what’s the hold up? Let’s get on with it!
"(And I have to say that many people find it just a bit bizarre that the Administration has proclaimed its opposition to this bill when they have failed to do their job and lay out their game plan for overseas operations.)
"But whatever the recommendation we ultimately receive, we will closely examine their request because we will still have troops on the ground and, no matter the number, they need to be protected.
"Of course, we will also consider: the deepening (civil) war in Iraq; the continuing disintegration of Syria; the aggressiveness of Russia in eastern Europe and China in the Pacific; the growing influence of Iran; and increased terrorist attacks across the globe, especially in Africa.
"So, while the Administration feels the pending OCO request will have a great deal to do with our “enduring U.S. military presence in Afghanistan,” in reality their request will have a great deal to do with our enduring role in the fight to protect Americans and our homeland from a growing list of global threats.
"Even though we’ve returned to “regular order” this year, the Committee faced many challenges in crafting this year’s Defense bill, but we held firm to two guiding principles: Ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to defend our nation and support their families; and ensuring the Department of Defense and Intelligence community have the resources they need to carry out their mission in the most efficient and effective manner.
"Our goal throughout this bill is to support our warfighters now and in the future, whenever the next crisis arises.
"At the same time, our committee clearly recognizes the nation's debt crisis and we found areas and programs where reductions were possible without adversely impacting our Armed Forces.
"Frankly, it is important that we make every dollar count without harming readiness or increasing the risks incurred by our warfighters
"The bill before you attempts to meet those responsibilities, within current fiscal constraints, while leaving no question for our allies and adversaries about our will and our ability to defend ourselves and our interests around the world.
"America must continue to lead and this bipartisan bill enables that leadership.
"Let me highlight just a few items included in this FY ’15 Defense Appropriations request:
- An additional $1.2 billion to fill readiness shortfalls;
- $534 million to fully fund the authorized 1.8 percent pay raise for the troops;
- $789 million to begin the refueling of USS George Washington – a vital power projection platform;
- $5.8 billion for a total of 38 Joint Strike Fighters;
- $975 million to buy 12 additional Electronic Attack Growlers (EA-18G);
- $120 million to upgrade M1 Abrams tanks;
- $351 million for the Israeli Cooperative Program;
- An additional $39 million for suicide prevention activities, $19 million of it targeted specifically to our Special Forces.
"These are but a few examples of our commitment to U.S. military dominance across the air, land and sea; our commitment to our allies and partners; and our commitment to our service-members (all volunteers) and their families;
"Mr. Chairman, I understand that Americans are weary after 13 years of war.
"Despite the proclamations of some that al-Qaeda and its followers have been decimated, the American people must understand the reality that terrorism is actually spreading worldwide.
"Yes, our enemies have sustained serious damage, inflicted by the most skillful and powerful military-intelligence organization on the globe. But in many cases, these enemies have adapted, and grown to become even more dangerous.
"We are witnessing an alarming collapse in Iraq. The central government now controls less than half of its own sovereign territory as it reels before a full-blown insurgency. The concept of an autonomous Jihadi state or Caliphate determined to attack the West is an unacceptable development that demands a response.
"We “pivot” elsewhere at our own peril!
"National defense is the priority job of the federal government. Our Constitution grants Congress the full range of authorities for establishing the defense of the nation.
"Our task in this House is to ensure that our military is ready to respond when the Commander-in-Chief calls. This legislation moves us toward a state of current and future military readiness that will protect America and I urge its passage.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I reserve the balance of my time."