The United States is blessed with the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest fighting force in the world. I hold in the highest esteem the men and women who voluntarily serve in our Armed Forces. They exemplify dedication, perseverance, hard work, and love of country, and to them our nation owes the deepest debt of gratitude. All over the world they endeavor to save lives, defend the notions of freedom and human dignity, and work to combat tyranny and oppression.
As we fight two wars and uphold our commitments to friends and allies around the world, our nation's fighting men and women have been forced to extend their deployments, prolonging the time spent away from their homes, families, and loved ones. As we ask them to do this we must also provide them with the highest quality benefits, including affordable housing, access to higher education, top-quality health care, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Our soldiers should leave home knowing that they and their families will be taken care of through the duration of their service, as well as upon their return.
Throughout my tenure in Congress I have worked hard to defend the interests of military personnel and make certain that our veterans receive the benefits they deserve. In the 111th Congress I am supporting numerous bills to extend benefits to veterans and ensure that the federal government prioritizes such spending. I recently wrote a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding the misuse of medical equipment at VA medical facilities, including one in South Florida, which resulted in thousands of veterans being exposed to infectious diseases. I also recently signed a letter along with several of my colleagues in the House of Representatives to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee in support of retaining compensation to all service members whose service has been extended by the military's stop-loss policy since 2001.
Rest assured I will remain vigilant against any abuse of veterans and am committed to improving the lives of those who put themselves at risk to defend our country.
The United States currently spends over $700 billion a year on defense, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This amount is vastly more than the spending levels of every other nation in the world and is critical to preserving our nation's military strength and recruiting, training, and caring for the highest quality soldiers in the world, as well as ensuring that they have the most advanced technologies to effectively perform their missions while limiting the risk to themselves and their fellow soldiers. Nevertheless, I firmly believe in the need to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, and to cancel defense programs that do not work or are not needed. Congress must continue to perform effective oversight of the Department of Defense and the defense industry to ensure that programs and projects are delivered on time and on budget.
In this era of economic crisis and increasing priorities on domestic matters from health care to energy reform, we must not forget our nation's fighting men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. The United States must maintain our powerful military and ensure that the defense policies we pursue are ones which will enhance our nation's global interests, protect our national security, and improve the lives of the men and women who everyday dedicate themselves so fully to their country.