DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Extensions of Remarks - November 09, 2007)
SPEECH OF HON. RUSH D. HOLT OF NEW JERSEY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2007
The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 3222) making appropriations for the Department of Defense for fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes:
* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this measure, which will give our men and women in uniform the resources they need to help protect our Nation and its people.
* Taking care of our military families is a vital responsibility, and this bill meets that obligation. It provides a 3.5 percent pay raise for all military personnel, rejects the President's proposed increases in TRICARE co-pays by fully funding the $1.9 billion TRICARE shortfall without cost to our troops, and allocates $2.6 billion to provide more counselors, teachers, and child care providers to reinforce the support network serving military families. The bill also provides $615.7 million for Army facilities to upgrade barracks, improve child care facilities and enhance community services at bases throughout the U.S., Europe and Korea. All of these things will improve the quality of life of our military families, and I appreciate what Chairman Murtha has done on their behalf.
* Providing our deployed troops with the equipment they need is our other vital responsibility. This bill provides $11.6 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and for body armor and other protective equipment. Earlier this year, I joined a number of my colleagues in a letter to Defense Secretary Gates urging him to make the acquisition of MRAP vehicles a priority, and I'm pleased he has worked with the Congress to expedite the acquisition of these life-saving vehicles.
* Our Guard and Reserve units will also benefit from a $980 million appropriation in this bill for new equipment. I think just about all of us in this House have Guard and Reserve units in our districts that have been short of key equipment, a situation that not only has compromised the deployability of those units overseas but has also made it harder for Guard units to provide disaster support to communities in the wake of floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. I'm glad these equipment shortages are being addressed in this bill, and I hope we'll continue working this problem until all Guard and Reserve units have their full allocation of needed equipment.
* Finally, to help those who return from war wounded, this bill provides $70 million for the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act (H.R. 1538), which passed the Congress in July 2007. That legislation mandated improvements in the care of wounded service members and in the services provided to them, including improving the system of case managers for wounded service members, creating a system of patient advocates, and the creation of a formal transition process from the Armed Forces to the VA for service members who are being retired or separated for health reasons. I'm pleased we're finally funding this important bill, which was passed in the wake of the Walter Reed Medical Center scandal in January. However, I view this as just the first step in properly funding these programs, and I hope we can do even more in next year's budget.
* Mr. Chairman, this bill will help us give our men and women in uniform and their families the support and resources they need, and I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for it.