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

2021-05-24 14:04

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 Army Quality of Life and Installations Update Hearing. 

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

We have before us:

  • Mr. J.E. “Jack” Surash, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment
  • Lieutenant General Jason T. Evans, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Installations Management (G9)
  • Sergeant Major Michael A. Grinston, Sergeant Major of the Army

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 Army on a host of important subjects.

However, as I have said in the two other Service hearings, before we can dive into the critical issues impacting our Army, it is important that we 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 FY2020 and FY2021, the Army saw a reduction of $690 million in the President’s budget request for military construction funding. This constitutes an incredible, and frankly unacceptable, decrease of roughly 30%.

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 supporting our allies. It is deterring our adversaries. It is establishing schools. It is modernizing hospitals and fire stations. It is giving those who serve our country good homes to live in. The very least we can do for our men and women in uniform is provide them with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their families are safe and cared for while they are on 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 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.

Today we’ll focus on women in the Army, and how they face impossible testing odds and ongoing bias.

This hearing will address the ongoing sexual assault crisis facing our Services, particularly the Army, and expect 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 Army is working to expand and improve Child Development Centers (CDCs) at our many installations.

In FY21, this Subcommittee provided $174 million for three Army CDCs. I look forward to hearing a progress report on them.

CDCs are integral to mission readiness, and while there has been a surge of support for more CDCs, the Army still has issues with several facility conditions.

Amongst the other issues we’ll look to engage on today, we’ll include what the Army is doing to ensure installation preparedness for climate change, how the Services are updating their archaic practices around incorporating women into the force, and what the Army is doing to remediate PFAS contamination.

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