Visclosky Opening Statement Delivered During House Consideration of the Conference Agreement for the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Act
Washington, DC – Below is the opening statement of Congressman Pete Visclosky, Ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered during the House consideration of the conference agreement for the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, as prepared for delivery.
Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
I would like to begin by congratulating Chairman Frelinghuysen on bringing his first bill to the House Floor as the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. I have greatly appreciated his friendship and steady leadership of the Defense Subcommittee over the past four fiscal years.
Further, I also would like to thank the new Subcommittee Chairwoman, Kay Granger. She has been a great partner in completing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Conference and I look forward to working with her as we proceed.
Finally, I’d like to thank the Members of the Subcommittee and the great staff of the Subcommittee for the long hours they have logged in putting together this product.
The bill before us today improves on the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Act that the House passed last June. Most notably, this bill adheres to the spirit of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and provides enough funding to support our military and intelligence community for the full fiscal year. Additionally, this bill includes strong positons countering Russian aggression, enhancing cybersecurity, building partner capacity, and supporting readiness. Because it is a product of bipartisan negotiation, this is a good bill and I intend to support it.
Despite my support for this legislation, I am extremely troubled that we are still working on the FY 2017 Defense bill in the sixth month of the fiscal year. For six months, the Department of Defense has been operating under a continuing resolution which drives wasteful spending and forces inefficiencies into the budget process. This is not the fault of the Committee. All that has been absent is a lack of political will on behalf of the Majority Party.
Even more disconcerting is the fact that the Defense Appropriations Act is just the vanguard of the eleven FY 2017 Appropriations bills that need to be completed by the end of next month. There is no excuse for them remaining unfinished. The investments made through those bills are vital to so many in our country and they need equal attention from Congress and the Administration.
It is imperative that we strive every day to prioritize keeping America safe and supporting our brave servicemembers, but we must also prioritize educating our workforce, making improvements in public health, in science and research and development, and in our economic and transportation infrastructure. If we neglect these investments in our future and in the well-being and success of current families and future generations of families in our country, then I am concerned that we will not have a country left worth defending.
Confounding a confused fiscal situation, there is a $30 billion supplemental request for FY 2017 recently submitted to OMB by the Department of Defense, which should make its way to Congress in the next few weeks. Additionally, as the Administration modifies its FY 2018 budget request they are without a predictable base on which to build.
There is very little margin for error given the few legislative days remaining before the Continuing Resolution expires on April 28. I, and I believe the Chairman, do not view that date as another point for negotiation. It is an absolute deadline, and the value of this bill and every other appropriations bill diminishes every day they are not enacted.
In closing, I appreciate being able to manage this bill with the Chairman. Going forward I will work hard with Chairman Frelinghuysen, Chairwoman Granger, Ranking Member Lowey, and the other Members of the Committee to return the appropriations process to its normal schedule.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and I reserve the balance of my time.