Bishop Statement Before Full Committee Consideration of the FY12 Military Construction, VA Appropriations Bill
"The Davis Bacon wage requirement is something that a majority of the House supports... I believe once this issue is addressed and if no other miscellaneous items are added we will be able to report out a bill with bipartisan support."
Opening Statement of Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Full Committee Markup
Thank for yielding Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank Chairman Culberson for all of his hard work. I believe you did the best you could with the allocation you received.
I would also like to commend the members of the subcommittee for all of their hard work and input on this process. I believe all of the subcommittee Members will agree that we had a spirited bipartisan debate during the subcommittee markup and I look forward to the debate we will have today.
The recommendation provides a $72.5 billion in discretionary funds for Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Related agencies and is $1.2 billion below the FY 2012 budget request and $615 million below the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution.
The recommendation includes 14.0 billion, for the Military Construction programs, which is a decrease of $2.6 billion below 2011 and $752 million below the budget request. Much of the decrease from 2011 is attributable to the expected decline in requirements for BRAC 2005, which will be completed in September 2011.
While the Milcon portion is below the requests and FY 2011, the Committee recommendation includes $483,302,000 which will allow for the renovation and replacement of 15 schools, six schools in the United States and nine schools at overseas installations will be refurbished with this funding.
Mr. Chairman, providing the funds for DOD schools will not only help our servicemembers children get a quality education in safe facility, but it will also give our servicemembers some peace of mind.
Mr. Chairman I was pleased to see that the Committee recommendation includes $1.1 billion for the Medical Center Replacement in Germany. As you know, a large proportion of serious casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters are treated there. I am pleased to see that we are making this important investment.
In addition, I believe there is sound logic for the reductions to the Milcon title. I believe the Committee should recapture bid and planning & design savings on previously appropriated military construction projects. With our current fiscal situation, this simply makes sense.
The bill includes $58.3 billion is discretionary funding for Veteran Affairs which is $1.85 billion above the FY 2011 enacted level. In addition the bill provides $69.5 billion for mandatory VA programs.
While I would like to give more resources to Veterans Affairs, I am pleased that we are building on the progress made by the Democratic Majority in the last Congress.
Mr. Chairman, I know you share my deep concerns about the backlog in VA claims. When the Secretary testified before the Subcommittee, this issue was on many Members minds, and we must continue to monitor this situation throughout this process and make sure we address any issues that arise.
VA-Major Construction Projects
Mr. Chairman, I agree that it is outrageous that the VA has such a high unobligated construction balances. I believe making the Veteran Affairs construction accounts similar to the Milcon construction accounts will help save money and force the VA to move faster on facilities that will help our Veterans.
Finally, Mr Chairman, in the General Provisions there is one item I want to mention, namely Section 413, which addresses the Davis Bacon wage requirement.
The Davis Bacon wage requirement is something that a majority of the House supports.
This body has already taken two votes on this issue. The first vote taken to include a limitation on Davis Bacon (King amendment) was during H.R. 1 and it failed 189-233. The second vote regarding limitation on Davis Bacon (Sessions amendment) was taken during consideration of the FAA Bill and it failed 183-238.
Including this language will erode bipartisan support for this bill. However, I believe that this issue can be addressed during this mark-up.
Now Mr. Chairman you have done a lot of responsible things it this bill but this is not governing in a responsible manner.
I believe once this issue is addressed and if no other miscellaneous items are added we will be able to report out a bill with bipartisan support.
To end on a positive note I would again like to thank the staff for all their hard work. They have worked really hard to get us to this point.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.