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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 15, 2007)

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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding. And I would also like to thank the chairman of the committee for expressing his support for this amendment.

At the end of the 109th Congress, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 was signed into law. This legislation created the Office of Rural Health within the VA and tasked the office with conducting research into issues affecting rural veterans, as well as developing and refining policies and programs to improve care and services for rural veterans.

Unfortunately, as the chairman has clearly stated, since this legislation has been signed into law establishing the Office of Rural Health, no action has been taken. Just yesterday in the Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee, I asked the VA Under Secretary to give me an update, and he confirmed that as of this date a director has not even been hired yet.

This amendment would simply allocate $5 million from the same account within Medical Services to establish this office.

The care our Nation provides rural veterans in return for protecting our country should not suffer because some have chosen to live in rural America. We owe them no less for their sacrifice.

For the 25 percent of all veterans who live in rural areas, and the nearly 45 percent of all recruits coming from rural America, I urge you to strongly support this amendment, and I commend the chairman for supporting this amendment.

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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlelady from Colorado.

Mr. Chairman, today I rise as a proud veteran, as a son of a veteran and the father of a veteran. I am honored to be the only veteran of the Colorado delegation.

As an Army man, today I am saddened to rise in opposition to the Army's plan to condemn nearly half a million acres of privately owned ranches and farms in my district.

Pinon Canyon currently has a 235,000-acre training facility which Fort Carson utilizes in southeastern Colorado. Now the Army is seeking to expand the Pinon Canyon site by an additional 418,000 acres, utilizing condemnation as a power to do so. The Army's plans include taking this land by condemnation. If the Army succeeds, Fort Carson and Pinon Canyon combined will be larger than the State of Rhode Island.

Opposition to the expansion is unified, as the gentlewoman from Colorado stated. But when the Army acquired the original Pinon Canyon land in 1982, they promised local landowners that it would never be expanded. Now they are planning to take even more. The loss of 400,000 acres of ranch land, Mr. Chairman, would devastate the economy of southeast Colorado.

The BRAC decision of 2005 stated that the Army did not need additional space. In 1970, the Army first looked at condemning land in El Paso County, which is now in Mr. Lamborn's district for the original Pinon Canyon. Many residents from El Paso County fought against the possible land grab in their own backyard, and the site was eventually moved to southeast Colorado.

I would ask my fellow Members, if you can't support this in your backyard, please don't support it in my district.

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Mr. SALAZAR. I agree there is no money for actual land acquisition, but there is money for the planning process. Do you agree with me that in the 2005 BRAC decision that the Army clearly stated they did not need any additional land in Colorado when they moved the troops from Fort Hood to Colorado to Fort Carson? Is that correct?

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