Chairman Rogers Supports H.R. 5834, the FY 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill on the House Floor

May 31, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5854, the fiscal year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill.

Earlier this week, we celebrated Memorial Day – a day to commemorate those warfighters who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our nation. I can think of no better bill to take up this week in honor of these heroes. We know the risks our troops take to fight for our freedom – and it is the duty of Congress to care for them accordingly.

This bipartisan legislation ensures that our troops and veterans have the vital resources they need and deserve to fight successfully, have a sufficient quality of life, and stay healthy. This bill is funded at the same level as last year - $71.7 billion in discretionary funding for construction efforts here and abroad, and for veterans’ health, job training, and disability and education benefits programs.

Included in this total is $1.65 billion for military family housing, ensuring quality housing for more than 1.2 million military families. Also included is funding for the improvements of existing military medical facilities and the continued construction of new ones, to ensure rapid and quality care for our wounded troops.

As a result of savings from the planned drawdowns in construction and declining BRAC costs,  as well as rescissions of excess prior-year funds and other efficiencies, we were able to increase spending on Veterans Health discretionary funding by more than $2 billion while holding the line on overall spending.

But these increases are not without stringent oversight. We know there are areas where the VA can improve, so we’ve required them to report on construction expenditures and savings, and restricted them from taking certain spending actions without telling Congress first. This bill continues to implement our Committee-wide – and House-wide mission – to smart, sustainable spending – without negatively impacting our warfighters or vets. You’ll see that this bill was written very deliberately to most effectively provide for our troops and veterans with the most careful and streamlined use of taxpayer dollars.

I must commend Chairman Culberson and the Ranking Member, Mr. Bishop, for their dedication and mutual respect as they crafted this legislation. Their Subcommittee and staffs have worked hard and well to ensure that we bring a great piece of bipartisan legislation before you today.

Last but not least, I also want to thank one former member of the Subcommittee staff specifically for his tireless service – Tim Peterson – as he embarks on his retirement after more than 30 years of federal service. Tim was most recently the clerk of this Subcommittee, and, as a member of the Appropriations staff, has worked on Veterans issues, among others, for almost twenty years. He also served on the Defense Subcommittee for six years. Before joining the Committee staff in 1989, Tim was a budget analyst in the Office of the Navy Comptroller. Staff and Members of the Committee alike will agree that he was one of our best – knowledgeable, accurate and always professional. He was a very calming presence – no matter what was thrown his way, he always rose above the fray and the hardships to get things done. His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed, and I thank him for his years of service.

As we remember those who lost their lives in battle, we are reminded that we can provide our nation’s troops, veterans and military families with the programs and services they have earned as a result of their service and sacrifice. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill.