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Defense Chairman Frelinghuysen Floor Statement on H.R. 2685, the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill

Washington, June 10, 2015 House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen today spoke on the House floor in support of H.R. 2685, the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations bill.

His statement follows:

"Mr. Chairman, as I rise to present to the House the Appropriations Committee’s recommendation for the fiscal year 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations bill, there are nearly 200,000 servicemen and women serving abroad, doing the work of freedom on every continent – (in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia).

"And, many more are here at home serving in every one of our states – Active, Guard and Reserves – all volunteers! We are grateful to them and their families!

"They are certainly not all experts in some of the language and terms that will be part of our vocabulary during this debate over the next 36 hours -phrases like 'sequester' and 'continuing resolution,' 'BCA,' 'Overseas Contingency Account,' and 'Global War on Terrorism GWOT account.'

"But they have every expectation that they will have our united support for this bill whether they serve aboard a ship, fly through airspace or provide 'over-watch' on land to support a mission. 

"This legislation was developed after 12 hearings, many briefings, travel to the Middle East and Europe and countless staff hours with those who serve us, military and civilians, very much in mind.

"This is a product of a very bipartisan and cooperative effort, for which I thank my good friend, the Ranking Member Pete Visclosky. We are both fortunate to have committee members who are engaged and committed so much to this product. And we are grateful for the support of Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey.

"In total, the bill provides just over $578 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $24.4 billion above the FY 2015 enacted level. This topline includes $88.4 billion in Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) funding for war efforts and is at the level assumed in the House-Senate budget conference agreement.

"I would point out our House total is very close to the number President Obama submitted in his FY ’16 budget request for national defense. Of course, the base funding recommendation is just over $490 billion, which reflect the budget caps enacted in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act.

"To reach our reduced allocation, we reviewed in detail the President’s submission and found areas and programs where reductions were possible without harming military operations, warfighter readiness, or critical modernization efforts. And please be assured we made every dollar count.

"To do so, we’ve taken reductions from programs that have been restructured or terminated, subject to contract or schedule delays, contain unjustified cost increases or funding requested “ahead of need;” historical under-execution and rescissions of unneeded funds.

"Of course, our bill keeps faith with our troops and their families by including a 2.3 percent pay raise, a full percentage point above the President’s request.

"It also provides generous funding to (their) benefits and critical defense health programs.

"In another key area, this package contains robust funding to counter serious worldwide cyber threats – now an everyday occurrence.

"But I think we would all agree that the world is a much more dangerous, unstable and unpredictable place than it was in 2011 when the Budget Control Act was signed into law by President Obama.

"The budget caps developed back then could never have envisioned the emerging and evolving threats that we’re seeing today in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, eastern Europe and elsewhere.

"So, to respond to current and future threats, and meet our Constitutional responsibilities to provide for the common defense, we developed a bill that adheres to current law and provides additional resources to avoid catastrophic cuts to military programs and people.

"Those additional resources are included in Title 9 – the Global War on Terrorism account. And that account has been carefully vetted to assure its war-related uses.

"Our Subcommittee scrubbed the President’s base budget request for this year and past budget requests and identified those systems and programs that are absolutely connected to our ongoing fight against threats presented by ISIL. Al Qaeda, al Nusra, the Korasan Group, Boko Haram and other radical terrorist organizations, including the Iranian Quds Force.

"We also projected what resources the military and intelligence community will need to meet the ongoing challenge of nation-state aggressors like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others.

"Not surprisingly, we have heard objections about the use of Title 9 to boost our topline national security spending in this bill. Frankly, I do not believe there is anyone on either side of the Capitol who believes this should be our first “Go-To” option. Rather, it’s a process we undertake as a last resort to make sure our troops can answer the call amid a worsening threat environment.

"Again, we have been very careful about what went into this Global War on Terrorism account. We resisted the temptation to simply transfer large portions of the base bill’s Operations and Maintenance accounts into GWOT. We painstakingly worked to provide the needed resources for the preparation of our forces in the field, wherever a crisis may exist or develop in the future, like the current unfolding disaster which is Iraq!

"In a recent Statement of Administration Policy, the White House asserted that GWOT funding – the old OCO account – is a 'funding mechanism intended to pay for wars…'

"I could not agree more and that’s why we reinforced GWOT funding to provide President Obama with funding he needs to lead us as our Commander-in-Chief.

"Within the GWOT account, I want to highlight two areas of critical importance: ISR and readiness. We believe that a strong Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability is a critical component of the Global War on Terrorism. And yet, a succession of Combatant Commanders have testified that only a fraction of their ISR requirements are being met, in essence, leaving them blind to the enemy’s activities, movements and intentions.

"Accordingly, the GWOT account contains an additional $500 million above the President’s 2016 request to improve our ISR capabilities - procurement of additional ISR aircraft and ground stations, the training of ISR pilots and other personnel and the processing of ISR-derived data.  

"Likewise, we share the concern of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines about the erosion in overall readiness in the force.

"So to begin to re-invest in readiness, Title 9 includes an additional $2.5 billion above the President’s request for this purpose – to be distributed to all the services and to the Guard and Reserves. I would add that this sum must be detailed and justified to Congress 30 days before it is spent.

"Again, this bill is structured to give the President the tools he needs to act. For example, when he does finally develop a long-awaited, “complete” and comprehensive strategy to combat ISIL and other terror groups, we’ve provided in this bill the resources he will need to execute his plans.

"I think we’d all agree that America must lead and this bill enables that leadership.

"Mr. Chairman, I will allow myself a closing thought:

"The Washington Post recently editorialized on the Defense Authorization bill that 'there isn’t much bipartisan governance left in Washington, but if anything fits that description, it’s probably the annual defense' bill.

"Like the work of our predecessors, this measure has been developed with the full cooperation of Republicans and Democrats on our Committee with our excellent staff led by our Clerk Rob Blair and his minority counterpart, Becky Leggieri.

"Past Defense Subcommittee Chairmen Young, Dicks, Murtha and Lewis, and others, consistently reminded us that we are here for the defense of the nation and partisan politics has no place in a defense appropriations bill.

"As Members of Congress, our first duty is to 'provide for the common defence.' It is on our shoulders to make sure our troops can dominate any and every battlefield upon which they march.

"Make no mistake: we want to work with the President and this recommendation provides him with the tools he needs to fulfill his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief!

"Mr. Chairman, this bill deserves bipartisan support and after many hours of productive debate, I look forward to a bipartisan vote outcome.

"Our troops deserve it. Our national security requires it. Our adversaries need to see it.

"I reserve the balance of my time."



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