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Supplemental Appropriations Act to Support Department of Defense Operations in Iraq for Fiscal Year 2003—Continued

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, we are currently engaged in a war with Iraq. I strongly believe that our military must have every resource at its disposal to fully prosecute and win this war. I support the Senate fiscal year 2003 supplemental appropriations bill because it provides funding for the military functions of the Department of Defense as it prosecutes the war in Iraq. The bill also includes funding for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and funding to continue our anti-terrorism efforts. However, I am disappointed that the bill does not provide adequate funding to protect our homeland.

The bill provides more than $62 billion to prosecute the military operations in Iraq, including replenishing munitions that have been expended and maintaining air, ground and sea operations critical to our war effort. It also provides more than $7.8 billion to support the reconstruction of health services, sanitation, transportation and telecommunications for the people of Iraq.

I also support the additional funds included in this bill to increase airline security. The bill provides $1 billion to reimburse airline security costs, $100 million to assist airlines in upgrading cockpit doors, and $375 million for airline operating and capital costs. I believe that this funding will help maintain the flying safety of the American public.

I am grateful to both Chairman Stevens and Ranking Member Byrd for providing $150 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for health care services to veterans of the Iraq war. I worked with Senator Graham on an amendment to help pay for the health care of returning service members who are released from the military. We are not meeting our promises to our veterans. The VA has consistently received inadequate resources to meet rising medical costs and a growing demand for its health services. This funding crisis has forced the VA health system to resort to short-term fixes, such as discontinuing outreach activities in an effort to reduce enrollment and instituting new regulations that require the rationing of health care. This veteran's health care crisis has been exacerbated with the recent announcement that the VA would provide free medical services to all veterans of the Iraq war for 2 years. The additional funding included in the supplemental is crucial to insure that current veterans do not receive a further reduction in health benefits.

While this legislation contains an acceptable level of funding to help prosecute the war with Iraq, I am deeply concerned that this legislation does not meet our Nation's homeland security needs. Vulnerabilities exist in our homeland security infrastructure, and we should not squander a single day addressing them. An independent task force, chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, recently advised that "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil." We must act to ensure that the Federal and State agencies needed to better protect our borders, coasts, cities, and towns have sufficient resources to do so.

The bill includes approximately $4.6 billion for increased border and maritime security to assist State and local governments in protecting our cities and our critical infrastructure from terrorism. But I believe that more should have been done to protect our homeland from the risk of terrorism. That is why, I supported an amendment offered by Senator Schumer which would have provided $3 million in additional funding for first responders and $1 billion for security in high-threat areas.

Last year I was very involved in the development of the new port security law, which included new rigorous security requirements for our ports. Given the vulnerabilities that we know exist in our port security, I am deeply disappointed that the Senate has thus far provided insufficient funding to address these problems. I strongly supported a Hollings amendment that would have provided $1 billion for port security and to screen vessels for radioactive materials.

I also support an amendment offered by Senator Boxer that would provide $30 million to the Department of Homeland Security for research, development and initial deployment of technology to protect commercial aircraft from the threat posed by stinger missiles.

While I missed the votes on these amendments, I was recorded in support of each in the RECORD.

We must continue to fight both the war with Iraq and the war against terrorism and funding for these programs is a necessary component of that fight.

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