CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 3222, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - November 08, 2007)
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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise in support of the rule and this conference report.
I want to commend Chairman Murtha and Ranking Member Young for the great work they do together each and every year on behalf of our young soldiers and their families, and the great staff that works in a nonpartisan manner for all of those soldiers and families.
The challenge laid before our subcommittee every year, and this year is no exception, is to strike the appropriate balance between present and future needs.
Clearly, we must provide the necessary funding to support our courageous young warfighters, troops in and out of the current fight, and their families and do it as soon as possible.
In this regard, I'm pleased, as others have mentioned, that we fully fund a pay raise for our troops. We also provide an additional $2.5 billion for family support activities, more counselors, teachers, day care providers, better housing.
This bill also contains significant increases in many Defense health accounts and provides funding to improve military mental health and post-traumatic stress syndrome programs.
It includes new efforts on preventative medicine in the Department of Defense and extra medical research. It contains $1.9 billion to erase the shortfall in the military's TRICARE medical program. It fully funds flying hours and home training.
But, Mr. Speaker, our committee has also applied its best judgment as to how we look to the future and how our Nation will confront adversaries in future conflicts.
This bill provides, as others have said, nearly a billion new dollars to upgrade the equipment of our National Guard and Reserves for both military and home State civil operations.
This bill fully funds the end strength increases for the Army and the Marines.
It moves the F-22 Raptor program forward and retains important language that bars its foreign sale.
The bill advances the Joint Strike Fighter program and directs production of a second engine.
Mr. Chairman, if I'd written this bill, I might have written some sections differently. For example, I wonder if we've gotten it right with respect to the future combat systems, the Army's signature modernization program. That's the Army's future, and we need greater investments in that area.
And lastly, Mr. Speaker, I join with many others in being very concerned that this conference report does not include a bridge fund to support our deployed warfighters. I understand that the House may bring a freestanding bridge fund to the floor next week.
However, I believe it's a mistake to attempt to pass a downsized, stand-alone bridge fund wrapped in so much red tape and conditionality so as to force the President to veto. While this may serve some ends, it slows the process of getting needed support for those who are literally on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But all in all, this is an excellent package, worthy of our support. Again, I congratulate Chairman Murtha and Mr. Young for all they do each and every year, and I support the rule and I support the conference report.
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