OPENING STATEMENT The Honorable Peter Visclosky Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee House Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Peter Visclosky
Ranking Member, Defense Subcommittee
House Committee on Appropriations
H.J.Res. 124, the Fiscal Year 2015 Continuing Resolution, Floor Deliberation
September 16, 2014
I thank Ranking Member Lowey for yielding me time.
Despite the strong leadership and very best efforts of the Chairman and Ranking Member, I am abjectly disappointed that we again find ourselves in the position of considering another Continuing Resolution. CRs are no way to run a nation. We cannot expect good government if we are incapable of providing appropriations in a timely and predictable manner.
Additionally, I find it inexcusable that we have further muddled the debate surrounding the Continuing Resolution by pairing it with an amendment to provide authority for the U.S. military to train and assist the Syrian opposition forces.
I am greatly concerned about providing another authority for conducting military operations in the Middle East. In letters to Congress, the President has cited the powers granted to him in Article II of the U.S. Constitution as the legal basis for some of the actions already taken to combat ISIL. In recent briefings and public statements, the Administration also indicates that the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolutions passed in 2001 and 2002, in the immediate wake of 9/11, remain the legal foundation for current operations. However, these authorities were approved by the Congress in a different time, and for different conflicts, and with very different Members. For example, less than 35 percent of the Members of the current House served in 2001 and 2002. The time has come to rationalize authorities with the needs of the current conflict, and for the current legislative body to weigh in on this matter of war and peace, rather than rely on authorities intended for Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.
Additionally, I appreciate the President’s honesty in pointing out that the effort to combat ISIL will extend into the next Administration. So why, after three years of civil war in Syria, are we including this authority in a Continuing Resolution that will be in effect for less than three months. Providing a fleeting authority for what we all anticipate will be a protracted effort is not sound policy in my opinion, especially as we will hit the replay button in December.
Similarly, the Continuing Resolution is a stopgap appropriations measure, and the funding to sustain training and equipping of the Syrian opposition will expire in less than 90 days. Further, this approach fails to take into consideration the long term financial costs of conducting this mission, which has been estimated to cost upwards of $500 million a year.
I believe there is an inherent flaw in this strategy: training and equipping non-state actors as the main effort in combating a threat to the region and our national security. The United States invested lives and innumerable injuries, as well as a great deal of national treasure, to train and equip the Iraqi Army, only to see the resolve of that professional force collapse in the midst of serious conflict. Why then do we expect the next force we train to behave differently? We must also ask ourselves if we can truly “vet” these rebel groups beyond their known affiliations, and ensure we are not arming the next extremist threat to the region, and the world.
I would note that recently, some of our allies and partners in the region have made commitments of equipment, training areas, and financial resources. I believe far more will ultimately be required of them, including leadership and troops of their own, to truly degrade and defeat ISIL.
Finally, in briefing members of Congress over the past several days, officials from DoD, the Intelligence Community, and the National Security Council Staff expressed the view that defense and intelligence activities in the region are complementary. I remain unconvinced these activities are fully coordinated.
The task of fighting ISIL is complicated. I am gravely concerned with the complexities we face while ensuring the safety of our forces. It is for these reasons that I am opposed to the amendment that will be offered by Chairman McKeon.
I yield back the balance of my time.