Chairwoman Wasserman Shultz Statement at Army Installations and Quality of Life Hearing

2022-05-12 11:17

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

Good morning. Today, we welcome Army 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:

  • 1. Ms. Rachel Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, 
  • 2. Lieutenant General Jason T. Evans, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Installations Management, and 
  • 3. 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 Department of the Army on a host of important subjects that impact our soldiers. 

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

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

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

This trend not only directly 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 Army is $1.85 billion, which is $1.2 billion less than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level of $3.1 billion. That is an unacceptable 39 percent cut.

I recognize that the fiscal year 2022 spending bill offered a particularly high mark compared to recent years. However, with so much important MilCon work to be done, higher funding should be the norm, not the anomaly. 

I shouldn’t have to remind everyone, that the military’s own estimate is that 30 percent of our military infrastructure is in fair or poor condition. 

Even though Defense spending overall is increased every single year, military construction somehow gets left in the basement.

MilCon is so much more than building new firing ranges and forts. It’s providing resilient, state-of-the-art facilities that can weather increasingly destructive storms. It’s reducing our carbon footprint and combatting climate change. It’s building child development centers and hospitals. It’s cleaning up the environmental messes our bases have left behind. It’s providing quality housing for our servicemembers and their families – ensuring military readiness. 

Reducing military construction funding, when there is an overwhelming backlog of required priorities is not only a threat to our nation’s security, but also bad government.  

However, this hearing will go beyond just this fiscal year’s budget request. 

Today, the subcommittee also looks forward to discussing quality of life issues and an update on installations. 

Sexual assault is still rampant across all Services, including the Army, which has the highest rate of assault reports. The subcommittee will seek out answers as to why it’s still such a significant problem and what the Army is doing to remedy it. 

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

We will look for explanations as to why privatized housing continues to struggle with oversight and quality assurance, including the ongoing fraud scandal by one of its leading housing companies, and ask what the Army is doing to ensure it supports its servicemembers while holding its housing partners accountable.  

We’ll discuss what the Army is doing to protect its servicemembers in threatening locations and how it is improving its policies for those servicemembers who are becoming parents. 

Additionally, we look forward to hearing how the Army is addressing the ongoing remediation of PFAS contamination and the transfer of closed installations to their local communities. 

Obviously, we have many important issues to discuss. As is the ongoing mission of the subcommittee, this hearing is yet another great opportunity to identify how we can do more to serve those who serve us. 

We look forward to a candid, productive conversation.

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

117th Congress