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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011--Continued--

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

It is very important that we take assessment of the excellent ideas in this bill that both parties support. Much of the debate this afternoon and this evening has obviously been consumed by points of controversy, but there are some major points of consensus that each side should be proud of supporting.

Number one, each side is vigorously supporting a significant pay increase for the men and women who wear the uniform of our country. Each side is supporting a very significant increase in the quality of housing, education and health care for the servicemembers and for their families.

Each side is supporting a significant step toward our Navy, reaching the point where our admirals tell us it ought to be.

In 2008, our Navy had authorized and at sea in the fleet 286 ships. Under this bill, our Navy will have authorized and at sea in the fleet 293 ships, a gain of seven ships. Mr. Taylor, in particular, has worked very hard on this point with the full bipartisan support of the Republican side. Our admirals tell us that the optimal size of the Navy they would like to see us have is 313 ships. So we have a ways to go, but progress is being made.

I mentioned earlier the legislation before the House authorizes $9.8 billion for our Special Operations Command. In the toughest neighborhoods in the world, in the toughest circumstances in the world, it is the men and women under the command of SOCOM who do the toughest work, and the bill on both sides supports them very substantially.

Also, as I mentioned before, this bill dramatically upgrades the amount of money we spend on identifying, securing, and disabling nuclear material that could be used to form a nuclear improvised explosive device. This is very much consistent with the administration's policy and broadly embraced by both sides.

So, Mr. Chairman, I just want you and others observing tonight to understand that it is the nature of debate that we do dwell--as we have these many hours this afternoon--on points of disagreement, and they are profound points of disagreement; but it is very important that people understand the points of agreement that are before us. Whether it is compensation for our servicemembers and their families, their health care, their housing, their job and educational opportunities, whether it is the end strength of our Navy--which, frankly, is a bipartisan commitment to bring us up to those 313 ships--whether it is the end strength of our Armed Forces; in 2008, the end strength of our Armed Forces was in the neighborhood of 1.4 million people, active duty, Guard and Reserve, a little over that. This legislation before us tonight would have the end strength of our Armed Forces exceed 1.5 million people in our active duty, Guard and Reserve.

So, Mr. Chairman, I again want to say that it is healthy, it is expected, it is anticipated that the floor of this Chamber will be a place where our points of disagreement are vigorously and honestly pursued. But as a compliment to both sides of the aisle, to Mr. McKeon and Chairman Skelton, the legislative product that is before us tonight has many, many, many more points of consensus, and we're looking forward to building on those points of consensus.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I yield myself 2 minutes.

I also wanted to make reference to the excellent work that's been done in this bill in the area of our missile defense program. Now, there are obviously disagreements over what the structure of that program ought to be; but when one looks at the fortification of defenses that we already have at Fort Greely and other places, when one looks at the additional investment that we are making in the successful regional-range missile programs that have tested and been quite efficient, I think that the accurate conclusion is that we are fortifying the defenses which have been proven to work in the missile defense field, we are building upon those successes, and we are preparing ourselves for a future generation of defenses that are effective both in a regional context and in the context of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The nonproliferation strategy really has two aspects: it is to be prepared to defend ourselves if a strike occurs, but it is to discourage the proliferation of nuclear capability around the world, as the administration has done in the Security Council negotiations with Iran and it has done with its layered defense missile strategy. So, again, I think this is another point where there is more consensus than disagreement.

There is disagreement between the two sides over the best way to pursue an effective ballistic missile defense. I don't think there is a disagreement over whether the pursuit of a ballistic missile defense is in the interest of the country. It most certainly is.

I would conclude at this point, Mr. Chairman, where I began. We know that the cornerstone of our country's defense is not found in this Chamber. It is found at bases throughout the world, both in the Continental United States and at forward-operating bases and other places overseas. We are profoundly grateful to the men and women who volunteer to serve this country. We, on a bipartisan basis, are expressing our gratitude where it counts: compensation, support for families, education, health care, and other opportunities.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I yield myself the balance of my time.

First of all, I would like to thank the gentleman from California for yielding his time to the gentleman from Mississippi. We appreciate that very much.

I will just conclude by pointing out that we've heard some disagreements here about the nature of ballistic missile defense. But to my core point, there is much in this bill that has been embraced by both sides of the aisle because both sides of the aisle have a profound respect for the men and women who serve and a profound appreciation for the core duty we have to preserve and defend the country.

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