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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - August 04, 2007)

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this bill, which will provide our men and women in uniform with the tools to defend America and its people. Overall, this bill provides $459.594 billion for the operations of the Defense Department for fiscal year 2008, which is more than $43 billion above last year's level.

This bill keeps faith with our troops and their families in three key areas. First, this bill provides $2.9 billion ($558.4 million above the President's request) for programs including childcare centers, education programs and the family advocacy program which provides support to military families affected by the demands of war and episodes of child or spouse abuse. Second, the bill addresses the health care needs of military families and retirees by providing $22.957 billion ($1.7 billion above 2007 and $416 million above the President's 2008 request) for their care. The bill rejects the President's proposal to inflict $1.9 billion in TRICARE fee and premium increases on our troops, their families, and our military retirees. Finally, the bill provides $2.2 to cover the cost of a 3.5 percent military pay raise, as approved in the House version of the Defense Authorization bill.

This bill also prepares our forces to meet future needs. The bill provides $7.548 billion, a 13 percent increase for all home-stationing training, so that our troops are well prepared for any eventual deployment. The bill also supports DoD's plans to increase the size of the Army and Marines by providing $4 billion to cover the equipment costs of adding 7,000 Army troops and $2 billion to cover cost of adding 5,000 Marines. These force structure increases may reduce the number of deployments individual servicemembers may face in the years ahead.

The bill also addresses Guard and Reserve equipment shortfalls by providing $925 million ($635 million above 2007 levels) in order to help forces meet the demands of overseas deployments and respond to natural disasters here at home. This amount meets the requirements identified by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau in the ``Essential 10 Equipment Requirements for the Global War on Terror.''

To help America maintain its technological edge in the military arena, the bill provides $76.229 billion ($1.112 billion above the President's request and $508 million above 2007 levels) for research, development, testing and evaluation programs, including military medical research.

Funding for production of the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter was zeroed out because they are not ready to go into production. Research and development will continue. Regarding ballistic missile defense programs, the committee cut some $298 million from the President's $8.498 billion request. I continue to believe that this is the single most wasteful, technologically impractical, and politically shortsighted programs in the entire Pentagon budget, and I hope that further cuts to this program will be forthcoming when the House and Senate conferees meet later this year.

The bill also cuts $406 million from the President's $3.157 billion request for the Future Combat System, the Army's projected next generation of armor, artillery, and related vehicle programs. This is another example of a Cold War legacy program that continues to receive massive funding despite its complete irrelevance to the wars we've been waging since 9/11.

If we've learned anything from our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's not that our soldiers' greatest need has been additional firepower from new tanks and artillery pieces--it's been their need for translators and cultural specialist who could help them bridge the language and culture gap with the Iraqis and Afghans who want to help us find the insurgents and terrorists who are destroying their societies. I'm glad the committee has taken this initial step in reducing expenditures on this Cold War legacy program, but I hope that it represents only the beginning of a fundamental reevaluation of this program and the eventual reprogramming of its funds towards more productive ends.

Finally, I wanted to take a moment to address a structural change that was made to the committee at the beginning of this Congress, one that has significantly enhanced this body's oversight of intelligence programs. Earlier this year and under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, the House passed H. Res. 35, which created the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which I have the honor of chairing. This step was in direct response to the 9/11 Commission recommendation that Congress take steps to reform how it conducts oversight of the intelligence community.

Our panel contains a mix of members from both the Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Our charter is to review the operations of the intelligence community and to recommend policies and funding levels where necessary. The bill before you incorporates our recommendations. The majority of these recommendations are detailed in the classified annex to this bill and cannot be discussed in open session. However, one specific recommendation can be outlined for this body and the public, and it involves those critical foreign language programs of which I spoke earlier.

Our panel recommended a more than $10 million increase in funding for the National Security Education Program, or NSEP for short. NSEP was established by the David L. Boren National Security Education Act (NSEA), as amended, P.L. 102-183, codified at 50 U.S.C. 1901 et seq. It was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on December 4, 1991. The NSEA mandated the Secretary of Defense to create the National Security Education Program (NSEP) to award: (1) scholarships to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas critical to U.S. national security; (2) fellowships to U.S. graduate students to study languages and world regions critical to U.S. national security; and (3) grants to U.S. institutions of higher education to develop programs of study in and about countries, languages and international fields critical to national security and under-represented in U.S. study. Also mandated in the NSEA was the creation of the National Security Education Board (NSEB) to provide overall guidance for NSEP.

NSEP's mission is to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. It consists of five initiatives that represent broad strategic partnerships with the U.S. education community designed to serve the needs of U.S. national security and national competitiveness. NSEP focuses on the critical languages and cultures of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, and is unique in the commitment of its award recipients to proceed into public service upon completion of their academic studies. Each NSEP award recipient must demonstrate a commitment to bring his or her extraordinary skills to the Federal Government through employment within one of its many agencies and departments.

I'm pleased that our panel has placed such bipartisan emphasis on closing the foreign language and cultural literacy gaps that still exist within our national intelligence and defense agencies. However, it is clear that our deployed forces still do not have anything approaching the number of qualified linguists and cultural experts to help them effectively interact with the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and most of the other countries of the Arab and Islamic world that are the critical battlegrounds in the war of ideas, hearts, and minds against al Qaeda. I will work with Chairman Murtha in the coming year to address this issue.

Mr. Chairman, on balance, this is a good bill that provides our armed forces what they need to protect our citizens, our allies, and our vital interests, and I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for it.

Mr. Chairman, I commend the subcommittee for bringing this bill to the floor. Let me also take a moment to commend the outstanding staff of both the Defense subcommittee and the staff of the Select Intelligence Oversight
Panel for their hard work and expert contributions to our final product. I also want to thank the Panel's ranking member, Mr. LAHOOD, for his many thoughtful contributions to our work this year.

Speaker PELOSI is a leader of vision and boldness. Under her leadership, the House passed H. Res. 35, which created the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which I have the honor to chair. This step was in direct response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that Congress reform how it conducts oversight of the intelligence community. Specifically, the Commission said ``Congress should create a joint committee for intelligence, in with combined authorizing and appropriations powers.'' The Speaker created a panel consisting of appropriators and authorizers .

Our panel contains a mix of members from both the Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Our charter is to review all aspects of the intelligence community and report to the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense. The bill before you contains our first such set of recommendations, which have put everyone on notice that real Congressional oversight of intelligence activities has resumed after a long and dangerous lapse.

This panel--unprecedented in Congressional history I believe--appears to be making a difference. Chairman Obey and Chairman Murtha have taken the Speaker's proposal and made it succeed. Working in a bipartisan manner, the panel has made numerous recommendations ranging from increased funding for foreign language programs to restructuring of major intelligence programs. Those recommendations are incorporated into this bill.

I think almost all Americans now know that our national intelligence agencies activities around the globe affect their safety and prosperity at home. What I hope they will now also know is that we in the House have made the oversight changes necessary to help keep them safe and their liberties secure.

Let me close by saying that our Panel's work is just beginning, and that I look forward to reporting to the House occasionally on our activities.

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