NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 10, 2006)
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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend for his very gracious yielding of time.
I rise in support of a piece of legislation that I think deserves the support of each Member of this body. I thank Chairman Hunter and Mr. Skelton and the various subcommittee chairmen and members for their hard work on this bill.
My reasons for supporting this bill are both local and global. Locally, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Mr. Saxton, chairman of our subcommittee, for his excellent work, along with Mr. LoBiondo, for inserting language which will put a stop to what I believe is an unwise and poorly thought out plan to dispose of the residue of VX nerve agent in the Delaware River adjoining our districts. I thank them for their leadership on that.
More globally, the role of the Armed Forces of the United States is to act in conjunction with our diplomatic and other leaders to shape the world in which we live so it is safer for our people.
And I think by any measure, this bill measures up to that very high standard. Most importantly, I am proud to support this bill because it significantly exceeds the pay increase for the people in uniform that was originally proposed.
The original proposal under the President's budget was for a 2.2 percent increase in the base pay of those who serve our country. I commend both the majority and minority for finding the right ways to alter that request and increase it to 2.7 percent, far more in line with pay raises being received by people in the private sector in lines of work that are obviously less risky and stressful for the defense of our country.
I also believe that this bill wisely invests in the information technologies and the intelligence gathering technologies that will serve us well in dealing with the asymmetric threats that our country faces and will surely face in the years ahead. I think this is a very positive foundation for the enactment of this bill.
I will say that I hope that the Rules Committee finds it within its purview to permit the full House to debate some other measures about shaping the environment in which we live, with specific reference to the question of limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There is an amendment presently before the Rules Committee which speaks to that issue, which I would urge the Rules Committee to adopt so that we can have an argument about the best way to shape the future in which we find ourselves.
But I will say this. There is unanimity that the best way to shape that future is to recruit, retain, reward, equip and take care of the brave Americans who step forward to serve this country and their families. I am very pleased that this has not become a partisan issue, that Members on both sides of the aisle have worked very hard to try to a achieve that promise, the recognition of that promise for the people who serve.
So I am proud to support this bill because of what it does for the anonymous young Americans whose names we do not know usually, until something terrible happens to them. I hope that we never learn their names if that is the reason that we would hear them.
But what they will learn from us is that their compensation, the care for their families will improve as a result of this bill that we support today.
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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, it surprised me to know, a little over a year ago to find that rather significant quantities of chemical weapons and the residue of chemical weapons had been dumped off the Atlantic coast at 19 different sites.
Now, it is important to understand that this dumping took place before an international treaty prohibited such dumping, so the United States was not in violation of any of its international obligations. And it is important to understand that much of this dumping took place at a time when our own Federal and State laws were either lax or nonexistent with respect to the handling of such materials.
The purpose of my amendment is most definitely not to point out any wrongdoing by the Department of Defense or the services. However, it is the purpose of my amendment to do something about the problem and finding out about the scope of the problem. We are talking here about arsenic, mustard gas, other very serious and very lethal substances which have been disposed of off of our coast over a period which dates back as far as World War I and went into the early part of the 1970s.
Now, what to do about this question requires a calm, factual analysis. Frankly, there would be one reaction that would say, well, we should just go find where the stuff is and dig it up and do something with it. I am not an expert in this field, but I am enough of an expert to know that that kind of hasty reaction might do a lot more harm than good. So the bill already contains some extensive reporting requirements which requires the Department of Defense to tell us where such dump sites are, how long these various chemical weapons and residues have been there.
My amendment adds one more requirement. It calls for the Department of Defense to do an epidemiological study of the impact, if any, on human health that has resulted from the disposal of these weapons over the years. The amendment does not prescribe a particular method of the study. It does not limit or expand any of the areas of inquiry.
It says to the Department of Defense, use your best scientific judgment and produce for us epidemiological studies that will answer the question as to whether there has been any measurable adverse impact on human health as a result of these dumping practices that took place from the early part of the 20th century until the 1970s.
The purpose of this study would then be to give us the facts that we need to determine the best course of action to protect human health.
Now, that may be to simply leave the status quo as it is. It may be to enact some measures that would preclude people from going to these areas of the sea. It may necessitate some removal. I think it is very important though that we approach this problem based upon the best scientific evidence of the impact on human health and not based upon any reaction that is based upon fear or ignorance.
So I would ask that the Members of the House support this amendment so that we may get these facts in front of us and deal with disposing of any threat to humanity that may exist.
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