Chairman Hal Rogers Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 2397, the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill

Jul 23, 2013

Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of H.R. 2397, the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill.

This bill provides more than $512 billion in base funding for our national security and military efforts, and $85.8 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” war funding. This is a base funding decrease of $5.1 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, but is approximately $28.1 billion above the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts.

This total reflects an appropriate, thorough analysis of what is needed to keep this country safe. Freedom isn’t free; our liberties, our rights, and our property are preserved by our national defense – but at a cost.

Sufficient funding for the Pentagon and our military is of the utmost importance to the continued prosperity of the United States of America. It is, and should be, our top priority.

We’ve already seen the distressing toll that the heavy-handed, indiscriminate cuts of sequestration have taken on our military – from grounded planes, to reduced training time, to postponed maintenance – all of which contribute to the loss of readiness of our troops. And, as we all saw this month as Department of Defense civilian furloughs began, our economy is also taking a significant hit.

The funding level in this bill strikes a balance between fiscal responsibility and sufficient support for our military. Within this total, we prioritized funding to advance our missions abroad, to prepare and equip our troops, and to ensure the readiness and effectiveness of our military.

This includes adequate funding to purchase the equipment, weapons, and vehicles needed to keep our military protected, at the ready, and able to conduct successful operations. The bill also provides funding for ongoing operations and maintenance of military facilities, equipment, and bases - fundamental to the successful missions of our Armed Forces. And essential funding is provided to develop new defense technologies – to advance the success of current military operations, and to plan for whatever new threats may arise in the future.

A well-equipped military is not as effective without strong and well-prepared troops. This funding supports readiness programs that prepare our troops for both combat and peace-time missions, giving them flight time and battle training.

In addition, this legislation fully funds the authorized 1.8 percent pay raise for the military – above the one percent the President requested. To keep our troops healthy before and after battle, the Defense Health Program receives an increase above last year’s level, funding medical facility upgrades, traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and suicide prevention outreach.

The bill also addresses what has been a black mark on our military – the problem with sexual assault. The legislation fully funds Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, and adds $25 million in funding for sexual assault victim assistance – to preserve trust in our military and ensure that members of our Armed forces are not sacrificing more than they already have to serve this nation.

But a balanced budget – one that does not put us into massive debt to other governments or threaten our economic stability – is also paramount to our national security. Even these critical national security programs cannot spend precious tax dollars unchecked.

The bill has implemented common-sense reductions wherever possible – including rescinding unused, prior-year funding, nixing a proposed civilian pay raise, and saving $1 billion in anticipated excess funding. We have also prohibited funding to modify facilities in the U.S. to house Guantanamo detainees, or to allow their transfer into the U.S. or its territories.

When all is said and done, this bill cuts more than $5 billion below last year’s enacted level. But I must emphasize that these reductions will in no way harm or negatively affect our national defense or the troops that fight to protect this great nation.

Mr. Chairman, some will complain that this bill breaks the cap placed on Defense spending under the sequester level for fiscal year 2014, put into place by the Budget Control Act. To this I say… OF COURSE it does! The massive, irresponsible, dangerous reductions to Defense spending under the sequestration cap are completely beyond the pale.

For example, if nothing is done to cancel the next round of sequestration cuts that are scheduled to take effect when this Congress adjourns, this bill would be cut to a total of $468 billion.

This is $44 billion below the amount provided in the legislation before us. To put this in perspective, this is an additional $20 billion cut below the already austere Defense level that was caused by sequestration cuts this last Spring.

In a letter just last week, Secretary Hagel stated that, and I quote,  "If the cuts continue, the Pentagon will have to make sharp cuts with far-reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States."

Providing for the security of our country is the single most important function of our government. This bill aligns security spending as our top priority – regardless of ill-conceived, arcane, and unfortunate budget rules that can and should be repealed.

Before I close, I’d like to take this time to thank the venerable Chairman of the Subcommittee, Bill Young, for his work on this bill. His dedication to the Pentagon and our Armed Forces is unparalleled, and that shows in this legislation. Thank you, also, to the new Ranking Member, Mr. Visclosky, for being a great partner to Chairman Young throughout this process. And finally, my thanks go to the entire Subcommittee and the staff; without your hard work, we could not have brought this bill to the floor today.

Mr. Chairman, there is absolutely no higher national priority than the protection of our country. I ask my colleagues to preserve a strong national defense and the greatest military in the world, and vote “yes” on this bill.

Thank you.