DUNCAN HUNTER NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009 -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 26, 2008)
* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill.
* We've all read the stories about wounded troops being forced to repay enlistment or reenlistment bonuses. Chairman Skelton is to be commended for including a provision that ensures that any servicemember who is retired or separated for a combat-related disability will not be required to repay any portion of a bonus or other benefit. The same provision ensures that the survivor of a member who dies on active duty will likewise not have to repay any bonus or benefit their deceased loved one was entitled to. I am also pleased this bill authorizes a much needed and well deserved 3.9 percent pay raise for our troops.
* Today we are also ensuring that active duty families, military retirees, and their dependents are not socked with higher TRICARE fees or co-pays by extending the prohibition on such increase. The bill also encourages beneficiaries to use preventive health services by waiving copayments for preventive services.
* We've all been troubled and saddened by the increased rates of suicide among servicemembers and veterans. To address this crisis, the bill establishes a Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces to bring together experts from both within and outside of the military to assess current service suicide prevention programs and policies and to examine the risk factors that can lead to suicide. The Secretary of Defense is required to develop a plan to improve suicide prevention based upon the recommendations of the task force. I urge Secretary Gates to convene this task force immediately and for the task force to complete its work as quickly as possible.
* Mr. Speaker, as is always the case in bills crafted by Chairman Skelton, this bill also authorizes additional necessary funds for key systems designed to help protect our troops. Two programs are of particular note. For example, the bill authorizes $1.7 billion to procure, sustain, transport, and field Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, MRAP, vehicles for our troops overseas. Additionally, the bill authorizes $2.2 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, JIEDDO, and urges that $10 million be used for Marine Corps and Army development of specialized counter IED dog teams. The bill also requires that the Director of the JIEDDO to develop a science and technology investment strategy for countering the threat of IEDs.
* Additionally, I'm pleased this bill requires the Defense Department to take additional steps to reduce its energy consumption, consistent with mission and operational requirements. The bill establishes the position of Director for Operational Energy Plans and Programs and creates senior operational energy officials within each service. It also authorizes $90 million for energy conservation programs on military installations.
* I regret that a number of provisions that were in the House version of the bill were not included in the bill before us, including provisions dealing with the use of private security contractors and detainee interrogation-related activities. I am especially disappointed that the current bill does not include the detainee videorecording provision I authored and that was included in the House version of this bill. I look forward to working with Chairman Skelton in the next Congress to correct this deficiency.
* Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill; I will vote for it, and I urge my colleagues to do likewise.