NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 648 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4200.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, there are many good parts of this bill, such as those that relate to pay and benefits, particularly a quality for National Guard reenlistees and others. There are some necessary, long-overdue basics for the troops, armored Humvees among others. But I rise to raise another issue which is of extraordinary importance, and hopefully I can get some agreement to resolve this problem.
We do not have a draft in the United States of America. We have a great all-volunteer military. Unfortunately, there are two aspects to that. One I tried to address with an amendment which was not allowed which is what are called "stop-loss orders." Many people in the military today are being forced to serve beyond the terms of their contract under stop-loss orders with no compensation. I think minimally they should be compensated. But today in the Portland Oregonian, page one, we have a story which is now breaking that faulty orders were sent out by the Army last month which told people in the Individual Ready Reserve if they did not choose a branch and reenlist that the military would choose soon a branch and mandatorily reenlist them. They now admit that this order was a mistake. Here is a quote from one veteran: "I started crying and said, 'I'm not doing this,' " said Carissa Jenkins, 22, of Keizer who was discharged from active Army duty in January 2003. "I have a baby, a husband. All my values have changed." She said she joined the National Guard last week to keep from going back into the regular Army. It is reported that in Oregon alone, enlistments were up by a factor of 1,000 percent for the month. Nothing else explains it except that these people were being told they were about to be drafted back into the military. And nationally, over 1,063 inactive Army Reservists signed up under these false pretenses.
I would ask that these reenlistments, which were done under color of faulty orders, be abrogated by the Secretary of Defense. I would hope that the two gentlemen on the floor here would join me. If these soldiers want to sign up of their own free will without a draft, without faulty orders, then certainly they should be allowed to do that. But this woman and a number of others are saying, no, they did not want to go back onto active duty, they did not want to go back into active guard status, but they did it because they were told if they did not do that that the Army was going to do it to them.
Is the chairman of the committee familiar with this situation
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. DeFAZIO. I yield to the gentleman from California.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I would just say to the gentleman, no, I am not familiar with that situation.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Is the ranking member familiar? I understand he is trying to get some information on this.
Mr. SKELTON. If the gentleman will yield, I am familiar with the article and I have asked my staff to make official inquiry with the Reserve component of the United States Army to answer this.
Mr. DeFAZIO. If soldiers like this woman, Carissa Jenkins, were forced against their own better judgment and their own life circumstances to reup because they felt they were about to be compelled without their own volition back into active duty, would the gentleman agree that perhaps we could look at voiding these contracts and allowing them to decide without coercion whether or not they want to go back into active duty?
Mr. SKELTON. I think coercion is certainly absolutely wrong. I would say to the gentleman that we would do everything we could to correct the mistake. I am certainly positive that the military would stand behind a mistake that they made.
Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman, and I hope that we can get this rectified. As I said previously, there are many good parts to this bill. I believe in the all-volunteer military; I believe in the pay and benefits enhancements; and I believe in providing better equipment, which the bill does. I intend to support it.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I would just say to the gentleman that I will be happy to work with the gentleman from Missouri on this issue.
Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman.