Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz Statement at Navy and Marine Corps Quality of Life and Installations Update Hearing

2021-05-13 10:11

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 Navy and Marine Corps Quality of Life and Installations:

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

We have before us: Mr. Todd L. Schafer, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment, Installations and Energy, Vice Admiral Ricky Williamson, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, Lt. General Charles Chiarotti (Sha – wrote – tee), Deputy Chief of Installations and Logistics for the Marine Corps, Master Chief Russel Smith, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (testified before the Subcommittee in FY21) and Sergeant Major Troy Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (testified before the Subcommittee in FY21).

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 Navy and Marine Corps on a host of important subjects. 

However, before we are able to dive into the critical issues impacting our Navy and Marine Corps, 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 Navy and Marine Corps alone saw a reduction in funding for military construction of nearly $1.2 billion. 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. It is expanding and modernizing our shipyards. 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 taken care of 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 the impacts the deferral of those 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 allow 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 Navy and Marine Corps 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 Navy and Marine Corps still has issues with capacity and quality. 

Amongst the other issues we’ll look to engage on today are what the Navy and Marine Corps are 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 modernize our shipyard infrastructure. 

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. 

117th Congress