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Establishing Army Corps of Engineers Veterans' Curation Program

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. OBERSTAR. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5282, as amended, introduced by the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Barrow). This legislation makes permanent an innovative U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' program begun under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Recovery Act, P.L. 111-5. Under the Recovery Act, the Corps allocated $3.5 million to open three Veterans Curation Project, VCP, laboratories throughout the nation. This legislation is important because it provides funding for hiring and training our veterans, while helping the Corps meet its cultural responsibilities. At a time when Americans need jobs more than ever, we should do all we can to increase training and employment, especially for returning veterans.

One of the Army Corps' responsibilities is its role in providing curation support for its projects. Accordingly, the Corps identifies, evaluates, and manages cultural resources that are eligible for listing in, or are listed in, the National Register of Historic Places. The Corps is responsible for ensuring that cultural resource management activities are consistent with Federal laws and regulations pertaining to Native American rights, curation and collections management, and the protection of resources from looting and vandalism.

To that end, the Corps used Recovery Act dollars to open three VCP laboratories in Augusta, Georgia; Washington, DC; and St. Louis, Missouri. These laboratories are tasked with carrying out the Corps' curation responsibilities, including cataloging, scanning, and photographing records and artifacts. At the same time, these laboratories use and train a workforce of disabled, wounded veterans, as well as veterans who have recently returned from overseas.

The VCP program is a very important program for our veterans because it teaches them skills in computer databases, digital scanning, digital image capture, and writing. Veterans who participate in this program can use these technical skills in jobs outside the VCP laboratories, including as forensic technicians and records managers.

This bill provides a statutory, five-year authorization of the Corps' Veterans Curation Project. The bill allows the Corps to meet its dual mission of hiring and training the Nation's veterans, while also carrying out its responsibilities to preserve and protect the Nation's cultural heritage.

We owe our veterans all the training and support we can provide them when they return home from serving our country. I would also like to point out that the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure received letters of support for this legislation from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and the Society for American Archaeology.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 5282.

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