Calvert Remarks During Floor Consideration of H.R. 4365, The Department of Defense Appropriations Act
Mr. Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of H.R. 4365, the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations bill, which is the result of months of hearings, briefings, and engagements by all Members of the Subcommittee.
To provide for our strong national defense, this bill recommends $826.45 billion for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community, which is $27.8 billion above the Fiscal Year 2023 enacted level.
When I became Chairman of the Subcommittee, I made it clear to the Department they would not receive any blank checks. Any request that lacked adequate justification, was early to when the funds were needed, had unjustified cost growth, or did not directly support DOD’s mission would not be funded in this bill.
It is our constitutional obligation of Congress, and this Committee in particular, to ensure the proper and appropriate use of taxpayer funds. At a time when the Department of Defense’s leadership is more focused on cultural issues than its warfighting mission, this obligation is more critical than ever.
I am proud to say that, due to the hard work of the Members of the Subcommittee, this bill funds our defense needs in a fiscally responsible manner.
Specifically, this bill cuts nearly $20 billion from the President’s misguided request and reinvests these funds into warfighting capabilities and additional support for our servicemembers.
I also approached crafting this bill with a comprehensive strategy focused on specific lines of effort:
- Investing in America’s military superiority to deter the People’s Republic of China;
- Combatting illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids which are killing over 100,000 Americans every year;
- Shaping a more efficient and effective workforce;
- Creating a culture of innovation;
- Enhancing oversight of all programs to ensure the appropriate use of tax dollars, and
- Taking care of servicemembers and their families.
To counter China, this bill doubles funding for the International Security Cooperation Programs for Taiwan, provides an additional $200 million to accelerate the delivery of the E-7, prohibits the decommissioning of 4 ships to grow the fleet, adds aircraft like the F-35 and CH-53K, continues investments in next-generation platforms, and supports recapitalization of the nuclear triad.
To enhance DOD’s efforts to counter the flow of deadly drugs into the country, the bill includes a historic investment of $1.1 billion in the drug interdiction and counter-drug activities account, including increased funding for counter-narcotics support, demand reduction, the National Guard Counter-Drug Program, and National Guard Counter-Drug Schools. The bill also moves Mexico into the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility, which will foster a more holistic approach to Latin American security issues.
To drive reforms to the Department’s workforce, this bill cuts over $1 billion from the budget request for the Department’s civilian workforce. This bill accomplishes this goal through attrition, while exempting employees engaged in shipyard, depot, health care, and sexual assault and response duties.
I want to be clear that NO ONE will be fired as a result of this language. During our analysis of the budget request, the Services and agencies across DOD reported attrition rates as high as 14%. This bill directs DOD to adopt smart business practices to become more effective and efficient, which is desperately needed.
The bill also mandates:
- a reassessment of the DOD’s manpower requirements,
- a plan to adopt technology to improve its business processes, and
- provides $751 million for the Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Office to further accelerate business modernization. This multi-pronged approach is critical to create a fiscally sustainable and efficient workforce and is informed by previous Defense reform efforts.
Next, we all are aware that the Department must innovate faster to keep pace with global threats. To do this, the bill includes over $1 billion to the Defense Innovation Unit to get needed capabilities into the hands of our warfighters. This funding focuses on near-term delivery of capability and partnering with the private sector – we cannot continue to take decades to produce new systems, or even worse, invest billions into programs that must be eventually canceled due to non-performance.
To bridge the “valley of death”, the bill includes $300 million to expand the successful procurement pilot program APFIT. Further, it creates a new portfolio to rapidly field commercial technologies for the warfighter through non-traditional entities within the Department.
To get the Department focused on its warfighting mission and away from culture wars, the bill includes a number of new general provisions that send a clear message to the Department.
These include funding prohibitions on:
- teaching Critical Race Theory;
- facilitating access to abortions that attempt to ignore the long-standing Hyde Amendment;
- overreach by the Biden Administration on climate change; and
- promoting so-called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.
The fact that the Committee has to address such issues reflects the failure of the Department’s leadership.
Finally, investments in weapons systems do not matter if we fail to invest in our most important resource - our servicemembers. With changes in this bill, junior enlisted servicemembers will receive an average pay increase of 30%. This will have a significant impact on recruitment, retention, and will improve the quality of life for our servicemembers and their families. I was shocked to see the Biden Administration oppose this pay increase in their Statement of Administration Policy.
As appropriators, it is our responsibility to ensure our military has the resources necessary deter conflict and if we do get into a fight, we win, and they lose. This bill makes it clear to any adversary that challenging the United States military is not in their best interest.
Before I close, I would also like to comment on the number of amendments we have received to this bill. I am supportive of this open, transparent, and inclusive process. However, we have to be mindful to not rob our readiness accounts to fund other priorities. I look forward to working with all Members on this as we move forward in this process.
Finally, I would like to thank all the staff for the incredible work they do to vet the budget request, work with Members, put forward recommendations, and assemble the final product. As my Ranking Member and former Chair, Ms. McCollum, knows putting together this bill is not an easy task. So I also thank her and her staff for their collaboration.
This is a strong bill for our servicemembers and their families. I look forward to working with my friends on the other side of the aisle, the Senate, and the Administration to enact a bill as soon as possible. Not doing so is a disservice to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.
I strongly urge support of this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.