Chairman Culberson Prepared Statement on FY 2012 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Appropriations Act at Full Committee

Jun 6, 2011

"It’s been a pleasure to work with my Ranking Member, Mr. Bishop, in this inaugural year of my Chairmanship. He has been by my side through every hearing we have had this year, providing thoughtful insights. His prior experience with the agencies has been most helpful.

"The bill before you was posted yesterday morning, and you and your staffs have had an opportunity to review it. In addition, the Subcommittee staff briefed all of your staff yesterday.

"This bill addresses the most urgent needs of our active duty servicemen and women, and our Nation’s veterans, while also recognizing the need to constrain federal spending as the country wrestles with large deficits. The total discretionary fiscal year 2012 funding is $72.535 billion, a decrease of $1.252 billion from the budget request, and $615 million below the fiscal year 2011 appropriation.

"This bill provides funding for 397 military construction projects contained in the budget request. We have deleted funding for three projects, and have reduced funding for another five projects, which will allow them to move forward with only the funding they can use in the current fiscal year.

"It also includes a rescission totaling $388 million due to the availability of unobligated balances from prior year appropriations Acts. It includes $483 million for construction of Department of Defense schools, the same amount as the budget request, which will improve conditions at 15 schools. The report includes language encouraging the Department to establish and publicize procedures that will allow for the establishment of Charter Schools when parents at the military installations see that as an alternative to local schools. It also includes the following funding for other military construction projects:

  • $1.1 billion for construction of 16 Department of Defense hospitals and clinics, which fully funds the request in fiscal year 2012.
  • $1.3 billion for National Guard and Reserve Component construction.
  • $373 million for new construction of family housing.

"The bill protects the health and well being of our veterans by preserving the advance medical care appropriations already provided for fiscal year 2012 and providing the mandatory funding for disability, rehabilitation, education, and housing benefits. Advance appropriations as authorized by the House-passed budget resolution further protect the benefits next year for our brave veterans.

"But we have been cognizant of the overarching responsibility Congress has to reduce the deficit and contain the national debt. So we have made some difficult, but responsible, choices to manage the size of the VA budget.

"We provided much of the additional funding requested for medical benefits for fiscal year 2012, but fenced it off to be available only if economic conditions create unmet need. We reduced administrative expenses for the Veterans Benefits Administration by $129 million below 2011, although personnel levels for processing disability claims are increased within that level. Funding for most central headquarters offices is frozen. The bill funds medical research at the budget request level, which is $72 million below 2011. We’ve also accepted the budget request’s reduction of $486 million to VA major construction. Finally, the bill reduces the budget request’s increase for Information Technology by $136 million (leaving a $25 million increase). Development of the massive IT systems the VA needs remains problematic.

"This Subcommittee has four related agencies under our jurisdiction. Three are funded at the budget request -- American Battle Monuments Commission, Army National Cemeteries Program, and Armed Forces Retirement Home. United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has been reduced by $25 million. This funding was tied to design and land acquisition for a new courthouse. This bill deletes the funding for the courthouse and directs the General Services Administration and the Court to look at other options for building a new facility.

"This bill includes a few additional provisions:

  • A prohibition on Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for construction contract. I believe this provision will result in substantial saving for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
  • A requirement that contractors comply with E-Verify requirements of Executive Order 12989.
  • A prohibition on funding for construction or renovation of any facility in the continental United States for housing any individual who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."