Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz at Air Force Installations and Quality of Life Update Hearing

2022-04-28 14:54

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Air Force Installations and Quality of Life Update Hearing:

Good afternoon. Today, we welcome Air Force and Space Force installations officials and Senior Enlisted personnel to discuss the fiscal year 2023 budget, quality of life issues, as well as receive an update on installations. 

Today we have before us:

  • Mr. Edwin H. Oshiba [pronounced Oh-she-bah], Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy;
  • Brigadier General William Kale, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers;
  • Mr. Bruce Hollywood, Space Force Associate Chief Operations Officer;
  • Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne Bass, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force; and, 
  • Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman, Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force.

Thank you all for joining us today to testify about some very critical issues. We certainly have a lot to discuss.

Today we look forward to engaging with the Department of the Air Force on a host of important subjects that impact our Airmen and Guardians. 

I was very pleased that the fiscal year 2023 President’s budget request was delivered to Congress in a timely enough manner that allows us to discuss the request in-depth at this year’s hearing. 

I was also happy to see the fiscal year 2023 request was larger than what I saw as an inadequate fiscal year 2022 request. 

However, I am once again concerned with what has now become a tradition of the budget request looking to reduce the funding of military construction in comparison to the previous year’s enacted levels.

This trend not only impacts the mission readiness of our forces, but also the quality of life of servicemembers and their families.

The fiscal year 2023 budget request for the Department of the Air Force is $2.85 billion, which is $930.5 million less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level of $3.8 billion. That is a 25 percent cut.

I recognize that the fiscal year 2022 spending bill offered a particularly high mark for spending compared to recent years. However, this type of high funding should be the rule, not the exception. 

Military Construction is so much more than just building bases. It’s providing modern, efficient facilities that can weather increasingly destructive natural disasters. It’s reducing our carbon footprint through energy resilience. It’s building child development centers. It’s remediating contaminants left behind by our Services, such as PFAS. It’s providing quality housing for our servicemembers and their families. 

Reducing military construction funding, when there is an overwhelming backlog of required priorities, is simply not good government. 

Beyond the fiscal year 2023 budget request, we also look forward to discussing quality of life issues and an update on installations. 

Sexual assault is still rampant across all Services, including the Air Force. The subcommittee will seek out answers as to why it’s still so prevalent and what the Air Force is doing about it. 

We’ll talk about child development centers (CDCs), which provide young children of our servicemembers safe, comfortable childcare and yet, they are still not receiving proper prioritization by the Department.

We will look for explanations as to why privatized housing continues to struggle with oversight and quality assurance, and what the Air Force is doing to ensure support its Servicemembers.  

This hearing will address ongoing Air Force efforts to identify and remediate PFAS contamination across their installations as well as replace the harmful AFFF firefighting foam that spread so much of it into the land and water sources. 

Additionally, I hope to receive a full report on disaster recovery and what the Department is doing to ensure our facilities are equipped to survive increasingly intense storms as a result of climate change.  

As you can see, we have many important issues to discuss. I believe this hearing is a great opportunity to identify those crucial areas where we can do more to serve those who serve us. 

We look forward to an open, honest conversation.

And now, I would like to recognize Ranking Member Judge Carter for his opening remarks.

117th Congress