OPENING STATEMENT The Honorable Peter Visclosky Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee House Committee on Appropriations Fiscal Year 2015, Floor Deliberation June 18, 2014
The Honorable Peter Visclosky
Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee
House Committee on Appropriations
Fiscal Year 2015, Floor Deliberation
June 18, 2014
Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Chairman Frelinghuysen and congratulate him on the collegial and transparent manner in which he crafted H.R. 4870, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Defense Appropriations Act. I also want to express my sincere appreciation for the efforts of Chairman Hal Rogers, Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and all the members of the Defense Subcommittee.
Also, this bill could not have been written without the dedication, long hours, discerning and thoughtful input of our committee staff and personal staffs. I want to thank Tom McLemore, Sherry Young, Tim Prince, Jennifer Miller, Walter Hearne, Paul Terry, BG Wright, Brooke Boyer, Adrienne Ramsay, Megan Rosenbusch, Maureen Holohan, Colin Lee, Paul Juola, Rebecca Leggieri, Steve Wilson, Joe DeVooght, and Jake Whiteside.
I would like to begin by saying a few words about the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) title. The Committee has been placed in a very difficult position of having to provide a $79 billion place holder. Recent decisions on the post-2014 troop levels in Afghanistan clear up the major policy issue that held back a detailed budget request. Unfortunately, the clarity gained was quickly muddled by the proposed $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and the $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative. At a time when many in Congress are rightfully looking to limit what is an eligible expense in OCO and shift activities to the base budget, these new proposals further complicate the issue. Clarity must be brought to the opaque nature of OCO and I look forward to the debate on this during the consideration of amendments.
I support the bill we are marking up today and believe it provides for our national security and the protection of U.S. interests at home and abroad. Put simply, the bill provides stability for our military personnel, maintains readiness, and preserves the industrial base.
I am pleased by the Subcommittee’s continued efforts on sexual assault prevention and response. Specifically, the bill fully funds the budget request for the Special Victims’ Counsel, continuing last year’s Committee initiative.
The bill increases funding relative to the President’s budget request for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, suicide prevention outreach programs, and several other invaluable medical programs. Further, the bill and report carry strong language aimed at increasing cooperation between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in their ongoing efforts to develop interoperable electronic health records.
Specific to readiness, the bill includes an increase of $1 billion to fill gaps in key programs to prepare our troops, including $135 million for the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. The bill makes investments in programs that are vital to the rebuilding and resetting of the force after thirteen years of conflict. In particular, it increases funding by $720 million for facility sustainment and modernization, and provides each Military Service with additional funding for depot maintenance.
I especially appreciate the Chairman’s focus on encouraging DOD to meet the FY 2017 deadline for achieving fully auditable financial statements. The measure before us provides $8 million above the request for the Comptroller’s office to improve business and financial systems throughout the Department.
Continuing problems in DoD’s strategic forces are also addressed in H.R. 4870 and funding is provided to address issues directly impacting intercontinental ballistic missile crews. It is disappointing that the Air Force included improvements in this area in its unfunded priorities list and not in its base budget request.
With regards to the industrial base, I was dismayed that in its FY 2015 Budget Request the Administration proposed the elimination of several long-standing general provisions ensuring that contracts follow Buy America requirements and support domestic manufacturing. I am pleased to note that the Committee chose to reject the Administration’s inexplicable proposal to jettison these Buy America provisions, and that they can be found in H.R. 4870. The bill also contains several other provisions and initiatives aimed at securing our industrial base, including $220 million to establish a program for the domestic development of a next-generation liquid-fueled rocket engine. Hopefully, this program will swiftly fill a very troubling void in the U.S. space launch industry.
One other area of the bill I would like to highlight is the funding increase for the Humanitarian Mine Action program. Albeit a small program, I believe its mission is of immense value. All too often, innocent civilians are the victims of explosive remnants of war. It is only right to share our military’s expertise with host nations on the detection, clearance, disposal, and demilitarization of explosive ordnance. I thank the Chairman for his special efforts in this area….
However, there are certain aspects of the bill that give me pause. Fundamentally, these concerns have little to do with the detailed work of the Subcommittee, which I believe did its very best under the constraints in which it operated. Rather, the concerns stem from Congress’ continued failure to confront our long-term fiscal challenges.
In its FY 2015 Budget Request, the Department of Defense proposed some significant initiatives, including military pay adjustments, restructuring TRICARE, and retirement of several weapons systems such as the A-10 and Kiowa Warrior, in order to stay under the FY 2015 budget cap, provide for future flexibility, and meet the national security strategy. Having said this, one could easily point out that the Administration then undercut its own efforts by planning for higher spending in Fiscal Years 2016 through 2019, and by submitting the disingenuously named Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, and subsequently submitting unfunded priority lists. Regardless, a number of proposals the Department put forth in FY 2015 do possess merit.
With a few exceptions, these proposals have gained no traction within Congress. Most were excluded or had language prohibiting or postponing their start in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act. I do not suggest that the Administration is uniformly correct, nor do I dismiss the resultant impacts of many of these initiatives, but the alternative of staying the course and hoping for some fiscal relief in FY 2016 is wishful thinking. The sooner Congress reaches the consensus required to make the difficult decisions that are essential to deal with the reality of finite resources, the better we can provide for our national defense.
In closing, I would like to reiterate my appreciation for Chairman Frelinghuysen’s cooperation, assistance, and diligence. He and his staff have ensured the Defense Subcommittee continues its tradition of operating collaboratively and effectively. I am pleased that we are considering this bill in a timely manner and look forward to the debate.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.