Chair McCollum Statement at Subcommittee Markup of Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Funding Bill
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2023 bill:
Today’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense Appropriations Act is the result of a lot of hard work by our members and subcommittee staff. We conducted 18 hearings on the budget request, and I thank every member for their participation and bipartisanship, particularly my good friend and partner, Ranking Member Calvert, as well as Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Granger.
This defense bill totals $762 billion. It is $32 billion above the 2022 enacted level and roughly equal to the President’s request. Ken and I received more than 10,000 program, language, and project requests from our colleagues.
One of the things that make our Appropriations Committee so special in Congress is that we go to great lengths to incorporate our member priorities. This year we were able to at least partially accommodate 73% of the requests we received, including 65% from our colleagues in the minority.
Yesterday, all of your staff were briefed on the package and received a complete list of dispositions of your requests. Ken and I did everything we could to ensure your top priorities were covered. 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.
Like last year, it also mandates that all defense contractors pay all their employees a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.
It also prioritizes our men and women in uniform by providing nearly $1 billion for sexual assault prevention and $193 million for suicide prevention.
One area in which Ken, Kay, Mario, and many others are in lockstep agreement is the need to do more in the SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM areas of responsibility.
In several hearings members voiced concern with the Navy’s proposal to retire nine Littoral Combat Ships.
While I strongly agree with the premise that we need to divest from ineffective programs, we have to ensure that we are not wasting taxpayer dollars.
The bill requires the Navy to keep five of the nine ships, and provide us with a report on alternative uses for these vessels.
For the remaining four, I have talked with the Chief of Naval Operations about the possibility of decommissioning them, so that they could be transferred to allies in areas of the world where these ships can promote peace and stability.
In many hearings and briefings in the last year we have discussed hypersonic weapons. The bill provides $3.7 billion. Within this portfolio, it cuts funding for ARRW (arrow), which is one of the Air Force’s two hypersonics programs.
Last year, after failed tests that placed it behind schedule, the Air Force asked the committee to shift funds from procurement to R&D, which we did.
This year, the Air Force has proposed to continue R&D and procure one…I repeat one…missile, and it doesn’t include the procurement of any additional missiles in the five-year defense plan.
Instead of sinking $162 million into ARRW to buy one missile, we are providing full funding for the Air Force’s
other hypersonics program, HACM (hack-em), as well as $197 million for test infrastructure to further accelerate
the various programs that are showing more promise.
On a whole, across all Services, we are providing $364 million more for hypersonics than was requested, and the Army is on track to field the first US hypersonic weapon by the end of FY 2023. There is no higher modernization priority across the Department than the aging nuclear triad. The bill builds upon FY22 increases and largely fully funds the land, sea, and air legs of the nuclear enterprise.
Because the climate crisis is a national security priority, the mark includes $2.5 billion. This means improving facilities, becoming more energy efficient, and preventing regional instability as the environment is changing, including in the Arctic where our interests will be challenged. These are critical investments that make us more secure.
The Ukraine is a priority for all of us. 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 through drawdown authority and $4 billion in Foreign Military Financing. We must do everything possible to aid Ukraine in its fight for freedom. But right now, the priority needs to be executing the logistics to successfully supply the ammunition and other supplies provided with funds our committee has already appropriated.
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.
Finally, regardless of which party controls the White House, it is imperative that we carry out our constitutional responsibilities and push back on executive overreach. In recent years, there have been several instances when the Department has ignored our requests for information.
The bill withholds $100 million from the Office of the Secretary of Defense until it meets certain reporting requirements. I had intended on it being $150 million, but after I notified the Joint Staff that they would lose $50 million until they provided a report they had been sitting on for months, it just so happened to be shared with the committee days later.
Along these lines, you may remember that in our intelligence community hearings, I raised my displeasure regarding the extreme delays in agencies submitting their budget materials to the committee. In the classified annex, the Director of the Office of National Intelligence will see that we have taken action to express our displeasure.
In addition, after learning of a Department plan to limit our ability to oversee taxpayer dollars by retiring aircraft used for official congressional and cabinet secretary travel, we included a new general provision to maintain the availability of aircraft. The President is welcome to propose whatever he wishes, but we will determine how funds are spent.
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.