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Issue Position: Veterans & Military

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All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our country's bravest individuals -- those who have served and given their lives in defense of freedom and liberty. On the heels of much-needed funding increases in Fiscal Year 2009, Congress again responded with funding levels consistent with our duty to provide for the needs of our nation's veterans and their families. The well-being and long-term health of America's servicemen and women is very important, and I have worked hard in Congress to help provide the best care possible for our veterans and current uniformed service members.

The President's Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request

President Obama's budget requested $548.9 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD), a 3.4% increase over last year. This request includes $33.0 billion for a 2010 supplemental request and $159.3 billion for 2011 to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funds to execute the President's new strategy in Afghanistan. I applaud the President's efforts to budget honestly for the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his commitment to tackle the Pentagon's bloated and inefficient weapons development and acquisition process.

President Obama's budget also requested $57 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a 7.3% increase over last year. It also requests $50.6 billion in advance VA appropriations for FY2012, ensuring veterans' medical benefits are not affected by Washington's broken appropriations process. The President's request also honors our nation's commitment to new developments and specialized care for veterans with psychological and cognitive health needs, especially due to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. I applaud the President for fulfilling these important veteran priorities.

While there are many ways to streamline the budgets of DOD and the VA, Congress must not forget its promises to our troops, our veterans at home, and the families of all who serve. Our troops overseas must be provided with the tools they need to complete their mission and return to their families as soon and as safely as possible. Further, we must also work to ensure our veterans and their families receive the care and services they need in a timely, convenient, and efficient manner. Although the budget process in Congress has stalled, I look forward to working with my colleagues as Congress considers DOD and VA appropriations bills in the near future.

FY 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations

The brave soldiers who are serving our country in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have made tremendous personal sacrifices in order to make the world a safer place. I am grateful to our troops for their service, and I am working to provide them with the equipment they need to achieve their missions safely and effectively and return to their families as soon as possible. Congress must also ensure that the families of these courageous individuals are thanked and cared for while their loved ones are away. On December 19, 2009, President Obama signed into law P.L. 111-118, the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations Act. This law includes $508 billion for DOD programs. Specifically, P.L. 111-118 contains:

* Military Pay Raise -- Provisions were added to provide a 3.4% pay increase to our military, a 0.5% increase over the President's request.
*Stop-Loss Compensation -- Provides $8.3 million in FY2009 to fund additional payments to any service member held on active duty past their enlistment date under a "Stop Loss" order. Affected soldiers can receive up to an additional $500 per month.
*First Class Health Care -- Provides $29.9 billion for DOD health care, a 13 percent increase over FY2009. It also includes $500 million for Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other psychological health issues, an increase of $128 million above the President's request.
*Support for Families -- Includes $472.4 million for Family Advocacy programs and fully funds Family Support and Yellow Ribbon programs. The bill includes $20 million for Army National Guard Family Assistance Centers and reintegration.
*No Permanent Bases in Iraq -- Prohibits funds from being used to construct permanent bases in Iraq or to exercise control over oil resources in Iraq.

In addition, P.L. 111-118 provides $129.6 billion for FY2010 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also prevents funds from being used to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay until the President presents Congress with an acceptable plan for processing the detainees held there. In addition, the bill reaffirms prohibitions on the use of torture against any detainee in U.S. custody, and prohibits funds from being used to construct permanent bases in Iraq or to control over Iraqi oil resources.

P.L. 111-118 also attempts to bring fiscal discipline to certain DOD programs. Specifically, the law eliminated funding for the advance procurement of additional F-22 Raptor air superiority fighters, reduced funding for private security contractors, and increased funding for additional investigators in the DOD Inspector General's office. However, I was disappointed the bill included additional funding for sourcing an unnecessary alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While there is no doubt these weapons programs are essential to the security of our nation, their out-of-control cost growth is placing serious strain on the ability of DOD to protect our troops and their standard of living.

As Congress works with the Obama Administration ensure victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, I will continue working to provide our troops with the tools, equipment, and supplies they need to complete their mission and return home as soon as possible.


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