OPENING STATEMENT: The Honorable Peter Visclosky Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee House Committee on Appropriations- June 10, 2014
The Honorable Peter Visclosky
Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee House Committee on Appropriations
Fiscal Year 2015, Full Committee Markup
June 10, 2014
Chairman Frelinghuysen, I want to congratulate you on the bipartisan and transparent manner in which you crafted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Defense bill. In your inaugural year as the Chairman of the Defense Subcommittee, you have continued the strong collegial tradition set by our predecessors. Further, you have been an unrelenting advocate for the oversight responsibilities and constitutional prerogative of the Subcommittee – thus our full Committee – in areas of the Department of Defense (DOD) that have lapsed and ignored the import of Article I, Section 9.
I also want to express my gratitude to Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey, and the other members of the Subcommittee for their efforts. Finally, I would like to thank the Subcommittee staff and the associate staff for their great work.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to comment on our subcommittee colleagues who will be leaving the House at the end of the 113th Congress. Mr. Moran, Mr. Kingston, and Mr. Owens, have all made valuable contributions to the Defense Subcommittee. They will be missed greatly and I am sad to see their expertise leave this legislative body.
Before I enter into my remarks about the merits of the base bill, I would like to say a few words about the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) title. As I have stated during hearings this year, the Committee has been placed in a very difficult position of having to defend a $79 billion place holder. While the Administration’s recent decision on post-2014 troop levels in Afghanistan clears up the major policy issue that was allegedly holding back a detailed budget request, the outlook for OCO funding has been further muddled by the proposed $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and most recently the announcement of 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 will further complicate the Committee’s task.
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 an expansion effort this Committee initiated in FY 2014.
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 twelve 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 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.
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 that ensure 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 the FY 2015 bill. The bill also contains several other provisions and initiatives aimed at securing our industrial base, including the inclusion of $220 million to establish a program for the domestic development of a next-generation liquid 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.
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 reform, 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, Mr. Chairman, thank you for your deliberative work in crafting this bill and for your commitment to strongly advocate for the Defense Subcommittee’s prerogatives. I look forward to working with you and the members of the full Committee to advance the process and complete the task before us.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman for the time.