Calvert Remarks at Rules Committee Hearing on H.R. 4365, The Defense Appropriations Act
The Defense Subcommittee has held hearings, classified briefings, and had many engagements with senior defense officials to shape our recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations bill.
To maintain our strong national defense, this bill provides $826.45 billion for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. This is $286 million above the President’s request and $27.8 billion above the Fiscal Year 2023 enacted level.
The stated mission of the Department of Defense is “to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.” This bill does just that by focusing on the DOD’s most vital task – protecting our homeland and our national interests.
When I became Chairman of the Subcommittee, I made it clear to the Department that 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 core mission would not be funded in this bill.
I am proud to say that this bill funds our national defense needs in a fiscally responsible manner. Specifically, this bill cuts approximately $20 billion from the President’s misguided request and reinvests these funds into warfighting capabilities and additional support for our servicemembers.
Through the collaborative work of the Subcommittee Members, the bill prioritizes several key areas including:
- Investing in America’s military superiority to deter the People’s Republic of China;
- Combatting illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids;
- 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 the 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, while exempting employees engaged in shipyard, depot, health care, and sexual assault and response duties.
This bill accomplishes this goal through attrition. 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. The bill also includes $300 million to expand the very 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 by ignoring the long-standing Hyde Amendment, funding gender transition surgeries, and promoting of so-called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.
These new general provisions are necessary to ensure the DOD is focused on its mission and is able to tell potential recruits they won’t be forced into being part of a social agenda with which they may not agree. 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.
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, 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 that have been submitted. I support an open and transparent process. While I support the intent of many of the funding amendments, I am acutely aware that we must adhere to the top line we were given.
I look forward to working with all of you to ensure we get this bill enacted before the end of the Fiscal Year and that we provide for the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.