DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 21, 2005)
SPEECH OF HON. MARK UDALL OF COLORADO
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2005
The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 2863) making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, and for other purposes:
* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this legislation.
* The Defense Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006 funds our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, among many other things. It is very similar to the Defense Authorization bill that I supported in the Armed Services Committee and on the House floor.
* In general, the bill fully funds military pay, benefits, the pay raise for the base force, and all military readiness programs, including all requested increases for Special Operations Forces.
* The bill also includes $45.3 billion of unrequested emergency supplemental funding (the ``bridge fund'') to cover contingency operations and personnel costs during the first six months of the fiscal year that begins on October 1st. This comes on the heels of the $75.9 billion FY05 supplemental funding bill that the Congress passed only a month ago.
* I think this is realistic and necessary, because we must support our men and women in uniform, but I also believe the administration must begin to take responsibility for the full cost of the war in Iraq and consider these costs through the regular appropriations process. There is no ``emergency'' here--we know that since this bridge fund would take us only halfway through FY06, we should be expecting another request of about $40 billion before the year is over. The American people deserve greater candor from the administration about both the predictable costs as well as the anticipated benefits of our undertakings in Iraq and Afghanistan.
* Once this bill is signed into law, defense spending in FY06 will total about 55 percent of the entire Federal discretionary budget. Overall defense spending, in real terms, will be more than 20 percent higher than the average Cold War budget. The administration needs to clearly recognize these realities and be open with the American people about its spending priorities.
* I want to briefly discuss a few other specific parts of the bill.
* I am pleased that the bill does not include funding for earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, which a recent National Academy of Sciences report found would destroy military targets underground but also cause massive casualties above ground. The bill strikes a compromise, providing $4 million for the Air Force for work on a conventional (non-nuclear) version of the bunker buster.
* Importantly, it also includes cost-containment measures on a number of weapons systems that have yet to be fully funded. This is critical at a time when costs of our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are also increasing exponentially.
* In the area of operation and maintenance, the bill provides important funding for added fuel costs and body armor, and $147 million for Army National Guard recruiting. The measure contains $2.9 billion for various procurement accounts, including $170 million for up-armored Humvees, $20 million for bolt-on armor kits for trucks, and $35 million for roadside bomb jammers.
* The bill also provides $8 billion in extra funding for military personnel accounts, including funds for incremental wartime costs of pays and allowances for active-duty and reserve personnel, for recruiting and retention, and for an expanded death gratuity.
* I am pleased that the Appropriations Committee accepted and the House approved an amendment on the floor to lift the $500 million cap in the bill on training the Iraqi National Army. Since the timing of the draw-down of U.S. forces is linked to the ability of Iraqi troops to defend themselves and their country, we shouldn't impose an arbitrary limit on this funding.
* I am also pleased that the bill provides the president's request of $416 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, known as CTR or Nunn-Lugar, to assist in the denuclearization and demilitarization of the states of the former Soviet Union. The total is $6 million more than the current level.
* Finally, I would like to comment on amendments offered by Representatives DUNCAN HUNTER and DAVID OBEY.
* As it came to the floor, the bill included language approved by the full Appropriations committee expressing the sense of Congress that the expression of personal religious faith is welcome in the U.S. military, ``but coercive and abusive religious proselytizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy by officers assigned to duty at the academy....... as has been reported, is inconsistent with the professionalism and standards required of those who serve at the academy.'' The bill directed the Air Force to develop a plan to ensure that the academy maintains a climate free from coercive religious intimidation and inappropriate proselytizing.
* As a Coloradan and a Member of the Armed Services Committee, I have been following this matter closely and have noted that Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the Academy's superintendent, has said that the problem is ``something that keeps me awake at night,'' and estimated it will take 6 years to fix.
* The good news is that several reviews of the situation at the Academy are underway, and a task force report is due this week. I am also appreciative that the Academy has already begun taking steps to address the issue by holding classes on religious tolerance. But it is important to remember that an unwillingness to tolerate other cultures and faiths is not only inconsistent with our constitutional principles, but detrimental to the mission of the Air Force and of the military in general. Our men and women in uniform need to work together to be successful, and can only inspire others to serve and serve well if they are able to demonstrate tolerance toward all.
* Representative HUNTER's amendment removed the language calling for corrective action. His amendment appeared to downplay the seriousness of a problem that Air Force Academy officials themselves have acknowledged. In response, Representative OBEY offered an amendment that slightly revised the language adopted by the Appropriations Committee but retained its essential elements.
* I voted for that Obey amendment, and regret that it was not approved and that the Hunter amendment prevailed. I hope that the Air Force does not make the mistake of concluding that adoption of the Hunter amendment means that they should lessen their efforts to respond to the problem they have identified.