Chair McCollum Statement at Full Committee Markup of Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Funding Bill

2022-06-22 11:27

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2023 Defense bill:

Thank you, Chair DeLauro. It is an honor to present the Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Appropriations bill.

I’d like to thank our subcommittee Ranking Member, Mr. Calvert, for his collaboration and input, as well as Chair DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, and all the subcommittee members for your contributions and participation in the 18 hearings we held this cycle.

The bill totals $762 billion, which is $33 billion above the 2022 enacted level and roughly equal to the President’s request.

I suspect many of my friends on the other side of the aisle will say that the allocation is insufficient. I respectfully disagree.

In March, we passed an omnibus which increased Defense spending under the jurisdiction of our subcommittee by nearly $33 billion. That does not include the more than $26 billion we have provided in emergency funds related to Russian’s illegal invasion of Ukraine through two supplementals. This bill adds another $33 billion to the Pentagon’s side of the ledger.”

The situation in Ukraine, and the reaction of democracies across the world, should be instructive as we determine an appropriate level of defense spending. As laid out in the new National Defense Strategy, our security is determined not only by our military might, but by diplomacy and development efforts. 

Overfunding the Pentagon while underfunding the State Department, USAID, and investments at home that strengthen our economy is a costly mistake. But what we choose to spend our defense dollars on is also incredibly important.

We must modernize our force to compete with our peer adversaries, but the latest weapons systems and platforms are only effective if they can be appropriately maintained in the long-term. Russia’s poor military performance early in the war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of properly sustaining, equipping, and training the force you already have. 

It does us no good to invest in high tech weapons if we cannot overcome basic logistical challenges like getting the right equipment to our troops when they are needed. And it makes no difference how many ships we order for our Navy if we cannot build or maintain them in our existing shipyards.

This bill was written to strengthen our existing force, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians and give them the tools they need to do their jobs safely and come home to their families. Now that I have covered the big picture topline discussion, I’d like to delve into some of the details.

The bill fully funds the 4.6% pay raise for uniformed and civilian personnel and further prioritizes our men and women in uniform by providing nearly $1 billion for sexual assault prevention and $193 million for suicide prevention.

The Department of Defense is facing an ageing nuclear triad. This bill continues to support the modernization of those forces as efficiently and safely as possible. Because the climate crisis is a national security priority, the mark includes $2.5 billion to address that. 

We include this funding because improving our facilities and investing in energy efficiency will save taxpayers billions of dollars in the future.

And nowhere is the environment changing faster than the Arctic, where our interests will be challenged by China, which already calls itself a near Arctic nation, and Russia which is an ever-present threat.

These are critical investments that will make us more secure. Ukraine is a priority for all of us and for democracies around the world. The bill provides $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is the same level as last year. 

In the second supplemental this program received $6 billion. 

Additionally, Ukraine is receiving $11 billion in weapons we are sending them through drawdown authority.

At this point, the priority is for the dollars we already appropriated to be used to provide ammunition and other critical weapons and supplies.

We are also continuing to support allies in Eastern Europe, with $225 million for the Baltic Security Initiative, $45 million more than last year, and increases above the Administration’s requests for Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia. We must do everything possible to work with our allies in supporting Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

This is the first year without funding for the Afghan Security Forces in more than 20 years. It is also well past time to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Section 8139 of the bill prohibits funds from being used to operate the detention facility after FY 2023.

Finally, the bill carries out our constitutional responsibilities. 

In this legislation I made 624 separate reductions to the budget request, some as large as $90 million and as small as $32 thousand. Every taxpayer dollar the Department spends must be justified, and the President is welcome to propose whatever he wishes, but we will determine how funds are spent. And because the Department and the Intelligence Community have ignored certain congressional requirements, funds are withheld until the Administration complies with our directives.

Before I close, I would like to thank the staff on both sides of the aisle for their work.  

On the majority side – Chris, Jennifer, Walter, Matt, Ariana, Jackie, David, Shannon, Hayden, Bill, Jason, Kyle, and especially Paul Kilbride, who is departing the committee later this summer, thank you for your tireless efforts to put this bill together. 

On the minority side – thanks to Johnnie, Nick, Kiya, Jamie, and Mike. I’d also like to thank Ben Peterson and CJ Zumbar in my personal office for their contributions this year. 

I strongly urge your support for this bill, and I yield back.

117th Congress