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

2021-05-18 10:03
Statement

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

Good morning. Today we welcome the Air Force Installations staff and Senior Enlisted to discuss quality of life issues as well as give us an update on installations.

We have before us:

  1. Ms. Jennifer Miller, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy
  2. Brigadier General William Kale, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers
  3. Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne Bass, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (Note: she is the first female Chief Master Sergeant for any military branch)
  4. 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 Air Force on a host of important subjects.

However, as I have in the other service hearings, before we are able to dive into the critical issues impacting our Air Force, it is important that I preface the hearing by highlighting a major, overarching obstacle facing the readiness and success of our Armed Forces – which is the perennial scaling down of MilCon funding.

Over the last several years we have seen a troubling pattern of decreases in military construction funding. A trend that not only impacts the mission readiness of our forces, but also the quality of life of servicemembers and their families.

Between FY2019 and FY2021, the Air Force saw a reduction of $1.8 billion in the President’s budget request for military construction funding. This constitutes an incredible, and frankly unacceptable, decrease of roughly 35%.

Military Construction is not simply the building of military bases and installations. It is providing quality childcare. It is ensuring security for our servicemembers and their families. It is deterring our adversaries, especially in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility. It is modernizing hangars and fire stations. It is giving those who serve our country good homes to live in. The very least we should be able to do for our men and women in uniform is to provide them with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their families are safe and cared for while they are on a deployment.

Although we do not yet have the FY2022 President’s budget request, I am hopeful that it will reflect a renewed commitment to prioritizing the funding  of military construction projects that ensure the success of our military and those families that sacrifice so much for our country.

Even without the FY2022 budget, this hearing and the answers we’ll seek within it will demonstrate how the current fiscal year’s funds are being put to use and paint a picture of what is needed for the next fiscal year.

For example, this hearing will discuss the $3.6 billion of stolen Milcon funds by the Trump administration for a whimsical border wall and what the impacts the deferred projects have had on our forces.

We’ll also inquire as to how much funding will be returned from this now-cancelled wall and if it will be enough to restore the deferred projects.

We will look for explanations as to why privatized housing continues to struggle with oversight and quality assurance, and why the tenant Bill of Rights still has not been fully implemented two years after it was passed into law.

This hearing will address the ongoing sexual assault crisis facing our Services and our expectation that the witnesses to explain the newest approaches to ensuring every member of our military is heard and protected.

Additionally, I hope to receive a full report on how the Air Force is working to expand and improve Childhood Development Centers (CDCs) at our many installations.

CDCs are integral to mission readiness, and while there has been a surge of support for more CDCs, the Air Force still has issues with capacity and facility conditions as stated in the CDC report provided on May 7, 2021.  

Amongst the other issues we’ll look to engage on today include what  the Air Force is doing to ensure installation preparedness for climate change, how the Services are updating their archaic practices around incorporating women into the force, the status of international troop relocation and what that means for our installations, as well as the ongoing effort to ensure the safety of our allies with the European Deterrence Initiative.

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.

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

117th Congress