Chairman Frelinghuysen Floor Statement of Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill

Jun 14, 2016

House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen spoke on the House floor today in support of H.R. 5293, the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations bill.

The text of his statement follows:

I rise to present the Appropriations Committee recommendation for the FY 2017 Department of Defense Appropriations bill. 

I’d like to begin by paying tribute to those who are not with us today – our men and women in uniform (all volunteers) who serve all across the globe defending our freedom.  Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines provide the mantle of security that allows us to meet in settings like this every day and they never should be far from our minds.  They – and their families - deserve our heartfelt thanks for their personal sacrifice.

I also want to thank you, Chairman Rogers and Ms. Lowey, for your support throughout the process .

Special thanks to Pete Visclosky for his partnership in this effort.  I thank him for his assistance and collaboration. 

Mr. Chairman, our Defense Subcommittee conducted 11 formal hearings and had numerous briefings (many of them closed and classified) to help shape this legislation.  

These meetings allowed us to look - in great detail - into our national defense posture and the capabilities of our adversaries and our partners. And we are very concerned by what we see.

Over the past several years, we have largely focused on the dangers posed by Islamic terrorist organizations – al Qaeda, the barbaric ISIS, Al Nusra and others.   They remains a clear and present danger.

But in recent years, new threats have emerged: a more aggressive and more capable Russia; an expansionist China; emboldened states like Iran; and rogue nations like North Korea.

At the same time, we were dealing with fiscal constraints imposed by sequestration and budget caps.

So looking today at our Department of Defense and Intelligence Community we note: Our readiness levels are alarmingly low for our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen; our decisive technological edge over our adversaries is eroding; and our adversaries’ resolve and their capability are only growing.

The bill before you begins to reverse these trends by providing more money for national security.

This measure includes a total of $575.8 billion for the Department of Defense for functions under our Subcommittee’s jurisdiction and $58.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) funding.

Our recommendation mirrors the funding structure that the House Armed Services Committee and this House approved a few weeks ago and shifts roughly $16 billion from the President's request for OCO operations into critical investments in our personnel, training and equipment while providing a “bridge fund” for our overseas operations through the end of April 2017.    

By that time, the new Commander-in-Chief will be able to assess our defense posture, reevaluate readiness levels and recapitalization efforts and request a targeted supplemental to support our troops.

I am confident that members of this House will work in a bipartisan way to ensure that this essential supplemental appropriations legislation is passed when the time comes.  Rest assured that we will never let our troops down!

By providing a “bridge fund” to next April,  bill is able to make targeted investments in additional manning for the Army, Marines and Air Force, more training, as well as the equipment they rely upon – all designed to repair the worrisome readiness gaps we see across our Armed Forces.

We currently have the lowest manning level in the Army since before World War II and this legislation boosts Army – and Marine Corps – end strength.

Despite the Secretary of Defense’s assurances that were are on our way to a 300-ship Navy, we now have 273 in our fleet which is smaller than at any time since before World War I!  This bill funds a significant increase in shipbuilding.

Our Air Force is flying the oldest planes in its entire history and the bill before you boosts modernization of our fighters, bombers, tankers and other aircraft.

We also were able to increase funding by $9.6 billion for equipment the Service Chiefs have requested in their “unmet needs” list.

Our investments will also allow all our military services to fully meet critical training requirements such as flying hours; steaming days; depot maintenance for aircraft and vehicles; ground training; facilities improvement; and base operations.

I also want to note that our legislation again includes $500 million to continue improvements for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) for our Combatant Commanders.  

Mr. Chairman, as I close, I want to make an observation about this year’s debate.

The President’s spokesman and the Secretary of Defense were quick to criticize the funding structure of the National Defense Authorization bill and, indeed, this proposal, and issued a veto threat against our bill this morning.  

The White House and Secretary Carter have suggested that we are “gambling” with the troops’ mission in the Middle East and that our approach is somehow “irresponsible” or “dangerous.”

But what was really “gambling” and “irresponsible” and “dangerous” was the Administration’s decision to pull our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan - against the advice of our military leadership - and not anticipate that the resulting vacuum would be filled by ISIS, the Taliban and other terrorist groups!

What was “gambling” and “irresponsible” and “dangerous” was (and is) the constant changing of rules-of-engagement to meet political objectives;

What was “gambling” and “irresponsible” and “dangerous” was ousting Khadafy in Libya without any plan whatsoever for the aftermath!

Indeed, it is “gambling” and “irresponsible” and “dangerous” to believe that Iran would not violate many aspects of the Geneva agreement! 

And surely it was a “gamble” to believe that the American people would ignore the capture and provocative treatment of ten American sailors by the Iranian regime... that the American people would not pay attention to increased U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq (and the tragic deaths of American service personnel) if the President simply refused to call them “combat operations.”  

There is more happening in the Middle East than air strikes against ISIS and we need to thank those warfighters on the ground.  They are risking their lives right now – and every day – and their families are “dispirited” because their sons and daughters are in combat and do sustain injuries while the Administration hides behind “semantics.”

Further, it was gambling and “dangerous” to establish a poorly thought-out and poorly executed “train and equip” scheme in Syria.…that China and Russia would cease their aggressive challenges to American superiority in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic with surface ships, submarines and combat aircraft threatening the safety of our military members.

My friends, one thing that we all can agree upon is that the last few years of budget cuts, constant deployments and new crises have only eroded our military’s readiness and capabilities. 

The bill before you does not “gamble.”  It is highly responsible.

Rather, this proposal wisely invests: more money for more troops, more training, more modern equipment, expanded cybersecurity, more intelligence-gathering capability, and better health care outcomes for our troops and their families. 

Our Constitution says the primary job of Congress is to provide for the common defense.   The bill before you allows us to fulfill that important responsibility in an increasingly dangerous world.  

The Secretary of Defense declared earlier this year that “today’s security environment is dramatically different than the one we’ve been engaged with for the past 25 years and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting.”

Mr. Chairman, we could not agree more.

Unfortunately, the budget that Secretary Carter sent to Congress the very day after uttering those words is just so much more of the old “thinking” he warned about.    

My Colleagues, we cannot wait for the Obama Administration’s “actions” to catch up with their “thinking.”

I urge support for the bill and reserve the balance of my time.